Welcome to summer break! As a parent, when you think of summer, at the top of your mind comes trips, pool time, parks and fun in the sun. For some of us, this still includes work, household chores and my favorite, “what’s for dinner?”. While we all enjoy having fun, at some point there comes a time when tasks and responsibilities fall into play and, when that happens, where are your children?! If your answer is on a device, this blog is for you.

Most of the time when your children have a device, they are zoned into a social media platform such as TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Well, did you know that various recent studies have found that social media negatively affect kids’ and teens’ mental health, body image, social skills, plus more. While social media have their positive aspects, like allowing us to communicate face to face and to increase our social interaction, it is important to manage in a healthy way.

Affects & Solutions:

  • Poor Sleep Hygiene

The stress and anxiety of social media can cause affects on your children’s ability to fall asleep. The lack of sleep then leads to health issues and affects their academic performance when school is back in session or summer school. Poor sleep hygiene plays a role in behavior and appetite, can lead to depression and have a negative effect on their well-being. The average child/teen needs at least 9 hours of sleep to support development and maturity.

Solution: All household members should turn off devices two hours before bedtime; minimum of one hour. Children practice what they see and not what they are told, so by all members, even adults, shutting down devices sets an example that sleep hygiene is important for everyone. It may be a challenge, but after two weeks it should become easier to practice. If this is an implementation of a new rule, then there should be a family meeting that takes place discussing device expectations while also having an open discussion about any questions or concerns of all parties. This also opens an opportunity to provide ideas for activities that could be implemented to replace screen time such as reading, coloring, playing or bedtime routine. If needed, turn off Wi-Fi in your home at specific times, place restrictions on devices or collect them all together. It is essential to set the tone and be an example for your children.

  • Dependency

Screen time and the use of social media are both passive activities that do not stimulate growth or development for your child’s brain. Children should have no more than two hours a day of screen time. On average, children spend six to nine hours using screen time as their passive activity, daily. Too much screen time contributes to behavioral problems, learning disabilities, attention deficit, depression, social anxiety and deters overall cognitive development. Children view social media as their lifeline to the world, so they feel disconnected from life when they aren’t engaged in the media.

Solution: Children/teens are hands-on learners and need those experiences to stimulate their brain development. Not all screen time usage is negative. Using TV programs or movies can allow more thought-provoking conversations when viewed with your child. Knowing their interests from screen time can help to expand on their interests such as museums, classes and creative activities.

Social media and teen usage are common and can be a positive experience as they can be used as a way for them to explore who they are (such as creating a Pinterest board) and engage with peers. Be sure to discuss appropriate online behavior with your adolescents. Emphasize that the internet is forever and what is put out there will be its digital footprint. Be a part of your child’s social network so that you can view their posts; but do not use it to spy. Also, install or enable alerts in case anything questionable comes through but won’t invade your teen’s privacy.

It is important to help your child understand that the seemingly perfect aspect of social media is not real life, as people share mostly positive traits of their lives. One solution to capturing a moment is through journals. If your child is old enough, they can start a gratitude journal to reflect on their positive experiences.

  • Low Self Esteem

When you scroll through these platforms you will see countless photos or reels that include good news or people having fun, which can present an opportunity for one to reflect on making comparisons with their own life. There are platforms that exist where negative images can exist for 24 hours and disappear, which increases the opportunity for peer pressure and bullying.

Solution: Maintain open dialogue, daily. Be sure to communicate with your children regularly about their experiences and what they have learned from their daily usage online. When your child brings up heavy topics or mistakes that they have made, do your best to manage your reactions. The more you can manage your responses (such as becoming angry or lashing out), it will increase the probability that your child will willingly come to you when they have challenges. If they come to you with anything heavy, try to reserve any judgment or ask further questions to increase your understanding and their ability to express themselves and feel heard. Additionally, be sure to make it a habit to speak positively towards what they are doing to build their self-esteem. For more challenging kids/teens, start with small compliments.

  • Decreased Physical Activity

It is no surprise that more screen time is a direct correlation to less physical activity. Children and teens spend more time in front of screens and less time engaged physically, not to mention eating and drinking mindlessly, which increases more calories. Therefore, too much screen time contributes to weight gain. Obesity and the lack of physical activity leads to a myriad of health problems including diabetes, heart diseases, respiratory issues and depression.

Solution: Encourage your child’s physical activity by engaging in physical activity yourself. Examples like going for walks, bike riding and going to the gym.