How to Talk About Social Media Safety With Your Teen

Insta­gram. Face­book. Tik­Tok. Twit­ter. Threads. Snapchat. 

Social media is every­where, and in the last 10 years, it has become a reg­u­lar part of most people’s day-to-day life. This is espe­cial­ly true for chil­dren and teens who have social media at their fingertips.

Some­times, it can be tough to know exact­ly what to say when it comes to talk­ing about social media safe­ty. You don’t want the con­ver­sa­tion to feel like an inter­ro­ga­tion or a lec­ture. It should be a chance to learn more about their online expe­ri­ences and help them build bet­ter habits around their usage. 

Here are 3 ways you can help your child be safe on social media.

1. Watch for changes in your child or teen’s men­tal health.

Hav­ing a healthy and safe rela­tion­ship with social media isn’t just about what oth­er peo­ple are post­ing. It’s also impor­tant for young peo­ple to under­stand how it can affect their men­tal health, too. 

Recent research has shown that social media usage can increase a child or teen’s risk for depres­sion and anx­i­ety. It can also expose them to harm­ful con­tent and neg­a­tive­ly impact their self-esteem and body image.

Talk to your child about how social media makes them feel. You may be sur­prised how insight­ful your child is about the effect social media has on them. Recent stud­ies have shown that young peo­ple are aware of the neg­a­tive impact social media can have — and actu­al­ly make changes in their use after reflect­ing on it.

Con­ver­sa­tion Starters

  1. In gen­er­al, how do you feel when you spend time on social media? Are your feel­ings more pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive — and why do you think that is?
  2. What emo­tions have you expe­ri­enced while using social media? What spe­cif­ic kinds of posts, pic­tures, videos, or com­ments seem to trig­ger more intense feel­ings like excite­ment or jealousy?
  3. How do you com­pare your­self to oth­er peo­ple on social media — either peo­ple you know or influ­encers you fol­low? How does this affect your self-esteem or how you feel about yourself?
  4. How do you decide what to post (or what not to post) on social media?

If you notice signs of depres­sion or anx­i­ety in your child or teen, talk to their pedi­a­tri­cian or a behav­ioral health spe­cial­ist.

2. Build healthy behav­iors and put pri­va­cy first.

Social media has many pos­i­tive aspects, like con­nect­ing with friends and fam­i­ly or stay­ing up to date about the lat­est world news. But it also comes with risks. 

Talk to your child or teen about inter­net and social media safe­ty. This might include top­ics like cyber­bul­ly­ing, iden­ti­ty theft, phish­ing, mis­in­for­ma­tion, doom­scrolling, and online preda­tors.

Encour­age them to prac­tice safe behav­iors, like mak­ing their accounts pri­vate and being cau­tious about accept­ing friend requests from peo­ple they don’t know. It’s also good for them to think about what kind of con­tent and per­son­al infor­ma­tion they are shar­ing — even accidentally. 

Con­ver­sa­tion Starters

  1. What steps do you take to pro­tect your pri­va­cy and per­son­al infor­ma­tion while using social media?
  2. How do you make a deci­sion about who to fol­low — or who to let fol­low you? 
  3. How do you deter­mine if the infor­ma­tion you see on social media is true? What do you do when you come across mis­lead­ing or false infor­ma­tion online? 

3. Set bound­aries and be a good role model.

While social media trends are chang­ing every day, social media isn’t going any­where. You may not be able to pre­dict which app is going to be pop­u­lar tomor­row, but you can help your child build healthy habits for social media usage that trans­fer to new situations.

You can also have a huge impact just by being a good role mod­el when it comes to your own social media usage. Demon­strate good online behav­ior by set­ting bound­aries for your own usage. Be hon­est about your goals and progress. Maybe you want to use Face­book less or clock less screen time on your cell phone. Keep the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open.

Con­ver­sa­tion Starters 

  1. How do you bal­ance your time on social media with oth­er activ­i­ties, such as school­work, hob­bies, or spend­ing time with friends and family?
  2. Why have you tak­en a break from social media (even a short break)? How did it make you feel, and what did you learn from that experience?
  3. How much time do you spend on social media each day? Do you feel like it’s a good amount, or do you think it’s too much?

It’s impor­tant to find a good bal­ance between mak­ing sure your child is safe online and also respect­ing their pri­va­cy. Not only will these con­ver­sa­tions help you under­stand their pref­er­ences and behav­iors, but they can also help build trust between you and your child. 

By stay­ing involved, informed, and sup­port­ive, you can help your chil­dren nav­i­gate the dig­i­tal world respon­si­bly and safely.

Health Topics:

  • My philosophy of care includes a comprehensive scientific and behavioral approach to treatment that looks at mental and physical health, as well as all psychosocial factors for the individual. The relationship between the mind and the body is a powerful one, and I am a big believer in the harmony between medical and mental health care. In working one-on-one, I customize an individual plan for each patient that I meet which is specific to their needs. I believe that we should always see a demonstrable benefit for time spent in psychotherapy; as a former software developer I am very solution-focused. I view myself as a very practical therapist in that I aim to treat the root cause of issues rather than focus on the symptoms alone. Therapy for me is also a collaborative process. I seek to empower patients through education and encouraging their agency in the healthcare system, because these two things lead to more positive outcomes in the long run. I also connect with the struggles my patients face. For example, I am passionate about bariatrics because I myself have been a bariatric patient and have lost several hundred pounds, so I have both clinical and first-hand experience regarding the process. This means I really understand the impact that changes in our mental health can have on our physical and psychological well-being, and how important it is to find a provider that both empathizes with us, and helps us achieve our goals, as well.