In my last post, I wrote about the epidemic of suicide among teenagers. There are probably a lot of causes for this, including increased academic pressure and reduced authentic social networks. It's also true that social media use has been linked to anxiety and depression. Jean M Twenge explored this link last month in an article for the Atlantic titled, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?
It's a great read, and I encourage you all to check it out. In the meantime, here are some tips on how to help the teenagers in your life manage their "I-lives."
1. Model good phone and social media behavior yourself. Teenagers know hypocrisy when they see it; so if you expect to set limits on the usage of their phones, make sure you apply similar ones to yourself.
2. Help balance screen and physical social time by using monitoring apps or parental controls. There are many to choose from and some are even free. For a list of 2017's best supervisory software, visit: http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/privacy/best-parental-software/.
3. Discuss your own emotional responses to social media out loud so teens don’t feel like they are too “sensitive." If you feel jealous of a friends “perfect looking" vacation, or you miss knowing what's happening in people's lives, make sure you say so.
4. Develop a plan for when, or if, something goes wrong. Smartphones and social media make a lot of great things possible, but they're also an avenue for inappropriate behavior, like bullying or sexting. Talk to your teenager about what is okay and what is not, and make sure s/he knows that they can come to you if something uncomfortable or unfortunate happens. When they do come to you, be sure to react calmly and work with your child on a plan for repair. If you find this difficult, seek help from a counselor or someone else who can help you and your teen work together.