Back to School Guide for Social Media by Dr. Stephanie Streb
Summer screen monsters out of control? Find your family is in the “summer slide” with bedtime and household screen rules? All those school year screen-time rules fall to the wayside? One thing is for sure- your family is not the only one! It’s a good idea to think about re-negotiating household usage expectations before the school year begins. At the start of the academic year, you may expect your students to be tired, overwhelmed, and wanting to retreat into a screen. It will help to have a well-established routine before the start of the school year. Here is some further guidance, suggested with your kids’ developmental and social stages in mind:
Grade School Kids (5-11 years old)
– Watch things together. Your children want to spend time with you, and the best way to monitor the messages they receive through media is to watch with them. Teach your kids to watch television actively and not passively by commenting on the actions of the characters, the presentation of healthy and also unhealthy relationships. Use this time to spark conversation and reinforce your family values.
– Be selective. Be specific about why you do not want them playing a particular game or watching a particular show. What do you know about it? Does the show or game engage their imagination? Does if reflect your family values?
– Try not to make screens the reward or the consequence. Using technology for shows and games is appealing to all of us, particularly our kids. When we make it the reward for good behavior or the consequence for less ideal choices, we further elevate its importance. We unintentionally make it more desirable, potentially encouraging our children to overvalue it.
– Encourage other interests. Designate media-free spaces like bedrooms and the dinner table. Establish and enforce these limits from a young age teaches kids to be healthy media consumers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a personalized Family Media Use Plan available at www.healthychildren.org. It is a nice way to sit down as a family and determine what, when and where are the terms for screen usage at home. As a parent, you can model this behavior as well. Other activities and interests should be presented as just as special and rewarding as screen time, and not as a potential alternative.
Tweens and teens (12+)
-Be a model. Remember that those same house rules still apply not that they have their own devices. Set a good example about how and where you use media in the home. And they may not openly admit it, but they do still want to spend time with you–don’t allow a screen to complete with your child for your attention.
– Teach privacy. Many social media sites allow kids to establish accounts once they are 13. Whatever age your family decides is appropriate for social media, make sure that your child is very careful about privacy. Talk to him/her about why privacy is important- not only today but in the longer term. Does your child understand when something is public or private? Does he/she consider this before they post?
– Reinforce trust, try not to spy. Spying on your child’s media and text use may be tempting. But ultimately, you want them to come to you if there is a concern. In order to reinforce that trust, follow or friend their social media page as a means of monitoring. If there becomes cause for concern, talk to your child and try to have a meaningful conversation about your worries first.
– Nude photos are always a bad idea. In today’s world, teens are pressured to send nude photos, sometimes as a means of proving they trust others. But relationships change and alliances shift, and those pictures are then out there and can cause damage to relationships and job prospects. Kids should also know that if they are a minor, the sender and the recipient can get in a lot of legal trouble for child porn.
The bottom line is to start addressing screen time and social media now before school starts. Keep monitoring and discussing your family values and tie those into how your family should use social media.