Podcast: How Parents Can Manage Children’s Social Media Use

Listen for tips on how to create boundaries around social media and the use of digital devices — and why limits are good for the mental health of the entire family.

In our second installment of our podcast series on youth mental health, our experts discuss how parents can manage their children’s use of social media, and how creating a family media plan can be a healthy approach for both parents and kids.

“I think as a parent, you have to set your own limits and boundaries,” says Dr. Warren Ng, medical director of outpatient behavioral health at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and director of clinical services for the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “I always say for parents and kids, practice what you preach. How can we have some ground rules, such as when can devices be on, when is Wi-Fi off? Saying as a family, let’s all commit to each other’s health and do this together.”

Dr. Shannon Bennett, site clinical director of the NewYork-Presbyterian Youth Anxiety Center, points out that it’s not just about the amount of time we spend on social media, but how we engage on the platforms that can affect our mental health.

“If we’re using social media as a tool to connect or to find information with people or groups that we’re actively engaged with in our real life, then it can be very helpful,” says Dr. Bennett, who is also an assistant professor of Psychology in Clinical Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine. “But it’s really just the passive scrolling that can increase anxiety, increase depression and take time away from other activities. That’s why it can be important to turn devices off so that kids have unstructured time to play and to think, and to get outside and to do other things that are disconnected from electronics.”

Tip Sheet

  • Agree on a time when you can turn off Wi-Fi and implement a social media curfew for the entire family
  • Make sure children come out of their rooms to eat and do homework as a family
  • Ask your kids about what they’re seeing on social media and how they feel about it
  • Keep up with social media platforms and trends
  • Practice what you preach and don’t get distracted by your own phone
  • Talk about what it means to be a good digital citizen

Additional Resources

    • Find resources, tip sheets, and presentations from NetSmartz (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) to teach children online safety in age-appropriate ways.
    • Read the Parents’ Ultimate Guides from Common Sense Media to learn more about the safety of current media and technology trends and apps for your children.

Listen to the rest of the Health Matters Today podcast series on youth mental health:

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