A Parent’s Guide to Social Media Use for Kids

Written by Ann S. Bockius, MFT on in Health & Wellness

In their counseling sessions, parents often have questions for me, or other counselors, regarding social media and how it’s affecting their children.

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In their counseling sessions, parents often have questions for me, or other counselors, regarding social media and how it’s affecting their children.

Research is showing us that too much time can contribute to anxiety and unhappiness among teens.  The average teen today spends about 9 hours a day on a screen.  That’s like a full-time job. As a way to reduce that level of screen-time, we suggest to parents that they set a 60-to-90 minute limit each day.  For the other “free time” hours in a child’s day, we counsel that they should be filled with face-to-face hours with friends, work, activities, studies, and family.

Parents often also seek counseling about how best to monitor their child’s social media use. There are many case studies of kids not being fully aware of the online lurking predators, mental health issues associated with social media and cyber-bullies who hide behind a screen, wreaking emotional havoc on their peers.

In today’s technologically advanced world, there are numerous apps available that allow a parent to explore monitoring a teen’s activity cell phones. While we don’t promote a particular brand or company, there are examples of more popular usage monitors.

For example:

  • Norton Family: When you turn on time supervision, Norton Family automatically warns or blocks your child from using their device once the allowed time limit has reached. The time restriction that you set applies for each device that your child uses. For example, if your child uses three devices and you set a daily allowed time of 2 hours, then your child can use each device for 2 hours daily.
  • MobSafety Ranger Browser: This app is used to monitor the Internet browsing history of your children, and can filter sites to allow or prohibit access. It can also allow you to set time limits on usage.

As counselors, we also are often asked about how best to handle arguments with children about phones. A suggestion that seems to work with many parents is to develop a contract with your child when the phone is first purchased. This contract should outline agreeable terms that work for both parents and the children. The terms can be discussed and should be well thought out.

For example, you could require that cell phones will be checked in at a specific time each evening – 9 pm – and available once again in the morning. You can require that the phone be available to mom and/or dad at all times. Remember, the parents bought the phone and, therefore, own the phone. Any time the child violates the agreement, the child must give up the device for a period of time. Both parties agree to this contract and sign it.

The key is that the parent must stick to the terms and enforce them. Consistency is the key.

A child’s phone can be helpful rather than damaging if we as adults lead them responsibly. It’s important for us as parents to put down our phones – listen with our eyes and hearts as well as our ears. Be a good role model.

It might be interesting to log your own hours on the screen.  How many hours are you putting in?  You may be surprised, and the numbers may cause you to consider changing your own habits.

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Author: Ann S. Bockius, MFT, Marriage/Family Therapist

Ann S. Bockius was licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 1990. She works primarily with families, parents and children ages 2 to 18. She previously worked for eight years as a preschool teacher and director and for seven years as a Parent Co-Op Preschool director.

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