Tips for teaching kids to be careful and smart on social media

Q: As a parent, what do I need to know to help my child use social media safely and effectively?

A: Social media can help you connect with friends, gather information, and create unique content. Social media use can also have negative consequences, including lowered self-esteem, exposure to inaccurate information, and fewer face-to-face interactions. Social media can be used safely and effectively. A great start for parents is to model the appropriate use of social media. It’s also important to know who your child interacts with, what content they consume, and how their time online makes them feel.

Like adults, children who use social media are constantly bombarded with information and can be overwhelmed by “fear of missing out”. When a child sees a post that makes them feel like they’ve been left out, they may become upset or question their social status. It’s important to remind your child that not everything they interact with online is real. Parents should ask children how they feel when they engage on social media: self-reflection is an important tool.

It is impossible to eliminate all inaccurate information that children may encounter. What is important is to help children navigate these situations. Teach them to ask questions, be curious, and use social media as a learning platform. In the future, when they come across information that seems inaccurate, they will be equipped to seek out legitimate information.

Always consult your child’s pediatrician regarding your child’s health.

For more pediatric health information that parents can use, visit our blog: 700childrens.nationwidechildrens.org.

Mary Fristad, Ph.D., ABPP, is a clinical child and adolescent psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

This Pediatric HealthSource column is from the Spring 2022 issue of Columbus Parent.

Mary Fristad, MD, ABPP, of Children's National Hospital

Steps to success

Encourage healthy use of social media with these tips:

  • Limit screen time. Help your child find activities they enjoy, like taking walks, reading, playing sports, or creating art.
  • Fact check template. When you find information that seems questionable, make it a teachable moment; find a reliable, trustworthy source that helps verify (or debunk) the information. Encourage your child to do the same if they have questions about something they interact with online.
  • Give your child the opportunity to discuss his feelings. The things your child encounters on social media can positively or negatively impact their feelings and behaviors. Having regular conversations about the information they find online can benefit everyone.

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