Is your child ready for social media? A child psychologist explains

Knoxville, Tenn. (WATE) — Every day children with mobile phones are inundated with images that could affect them negatively, especially if they access social media.

Social media is a way for kids to stay in touch with their peers, but it’s also a hub for things like cyberbullying and questionable activity according to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. They say it’s important for parents to stay on top of their child’s digital activities.

Dr. Jan Neece, a child psychologist at Children’s Hospital, shares some tips for parents on social media. When it comes to determining when to allow your child to open a social media account, most social media sites themselves say that you must be 13 or older to use them. So Neece explains that giving your child permission before that gives a message that breaking the rules is okay.

For those over 13, Neece gives parents a list of questions to ask themselves.

  • What are your child’s friendships/social skills?
    • If their real-life relationships are dramatic or strained, you can expect it to be just as bad, or even worse, on social media. Cruel behavior can explode on social media. If your child can’t hold a meaningful conversation with a non-parent adult, they’re not ready for social media, according to Neece.
  • How well does your child obey the rules?
    • Neece says every child tests boundaries from time to time, but if your child regularly disobeys you or lies to you, he’s not ready for social media.
  • How is your child’s self-esteem?
    • If your child isn’t confident or comfortable with who they are and what they can accomplish, they’re not ready for social media.
  • Did you have direct and frequent conversations about awkward things?
    • Sexting, pornography and predators are rampant on social media and Neece said it’s important to talk about it with your kids. A child needs to know exactly what youo do if you are faced with any of these situations. If your child doesn’t know what to do if they encounter any of these circumstances, they’re not ready for social media.

Once they’re on social media, there are ways parents can protect them. Neece says first, be a good role model. If you value your time on your phone, they will too. Then teach them not to share personal information on social media, to only communicate with people online they know in real life, and to come to you immediately if they come across any of the hazards.

Neece says setting up restricted access on cellphones to filter out adult content and ask for adult permission before downloading apps can also be helpful. Communicate often about what they see on social media and do spot checks to monitor their activity.

For parents looking for more information, ETCH suggests consulting the resources of Children’s healthand HealthChildren.org.

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