Digital Dilemma: Tips for Parents

Alexis Younes
January 8, 2024
May 14, 2024
min read

I hope by reading this blog series you’ve been able to gain a better understanding of social media usage, the impact it has on teens, and how it affects their current developmental stage. Let’s face it, social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and we cannot always look over our kid’s shoulder on what they’re doing 24/7. I know social media gets a bad wrap, but it isn’t all bad if used in a healthy, positive way, just like most things. As a teen therapist, I hear the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to my clients experiences with social media. Some parents come in expecting us (therapists) to eliminate social media usage completely or to take full control over their phones/social media; this isn’t a realistic expectation and let me tell you why. As your teen’s therapist, we aren’t going to be another adult making decisions and decreasing their autonomy and freedom of choice. If that was our role, your teen wouldn’t open up at all or trust us either. Our goal is to explore how utilizing social media serves them, what their personal goals are with it, and to educate on online safety. By giving them choices, you’re allowing them to problem solve and have a small bit of control over their lives.

This final blog post will hopefully help you as parents navigate the digital world. If you’ve been struggling with this topic with your teen or are looking for healthier alternatives, look no further.
1. Ask yourself, what is my communication like with my teen? Is it how you’d like it to be? If not, imagine what kind of communication you’d like to have with them. In order for this to work, we need open, clear, and honest communication. They need to feel safe and secure in disclosing information to you as well as their lived experiences when it comes to their online presence. Be interested, be curious, and most of all, be supportive.
2. Set those boundaries! By utilizing clear and open communication with your teen, you both can work together on setting expectations and boundaries around screen time, what is appropriate to post/comment, who is and isn’t okay to talk to, etc. By making this a group effort, you’re not only allowing them a say (which most teens don’t typically get) but you’re modeling healthy communication, responsibility, and how to set boundaries. 
3. Team Education! Do your own research and find teen friendly content to share vital information with on digital usage. Empower them to do their own research, too, on online safety, risks, privacy, and the other impacts social media can have, both good and bad. Help them fill up their toolbox to make good choices.
4. Advocate for a technological healthy relationship. Like all relationships, we aim to keep the ones that are positive and healthy for us, same goes for our technology. If you notice your teen has been endlessly scrolling for some time, check in with them to see if they need a break or a change of pace. Most of the time, they scroll because they’re bored; what they forget is when we’re bored is when we can become the most creative. Encourage other activities, to try something new, or to go interact with friends in real life.
5. Don’t become their Personal Investigator. I’m not saying to not be informed of what your teen’s online presence looks like, but give them the trust and the benefit of the doubt. Be respectful of their privacy and remember, at some point as a teen you probably wished for the same thing. Instead of going behind their back, this can be a good time to practice open communication about their usage and to be clear of consequences.
6.Actions speak louder than words. As a parent, you play a huge role when it comes to teaching your teens. Show them how to have a positive online presence by doing it yourself. Be mindful of your own screen time, recognize when your mental health is declining, and when to make other choices. By showing them that you can do it, it will hopefully empower them that they can too.
7. Check in on their mental health. Be in tune with your teen’s well being. They’re already going through it with puberty as it is, let alone life experiences added onto it. Notice when their behavior or mood changes and check in with them. Social media, as mentioned in previous blogs in this series, can impact one’s self-esteem, confidence, sleep, and mental well being. Encourage them to get help professionally if they want a safe, unbiased place to express their feelings.

The list can go on and on of all the dos and don’ts, but this is a good place to start. By walking alongside your teen on their social media journey, it allows you to model and educate them on many different topics: decision making, taking care of your mental health, ensuring safety and privacy, amongst other things. The goal here isn’t to tell them to never use social media again or to put apps on their phone to see what they’re doing at all times, but to trust that they will make responsible choices. 

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