As a pediatrician, it is my goal to treat the whole child, and that goes beyond their physical health. I want to know how they are doing in school, what stresses they are feeling and I also want to know about their habits – especially as it relates to social media, which is becoming a problem with today’s youth.
Last week I discussed how social media is affecting our children in a negative way. This week I want to talk about what parents can do to reverse that trend starting with their own children.
Part of the difficulty in dealing with social media use in your family is that parents didn’t grow up with texting, cell phones, Snapchat, Twitter, or Instagram. So it can be hard for parents to even know what the inherent dangers of allowing your child internet access are and more importantly how to uncover them and deal with them.
As a pediatrician, I am noticing that more preteens and teens admit to feeling unhappy and stressed out. I am still trying to put my finger on the root of this. Most parents can identify with middle and high school being difficult ages socially. But there seems to be more to it. I am beginning to think social media is playing a big part.
Social media makes the emotional ups and downs of this age more in-your-face than ever before. It’s out there for more people to see.
Children aren’t always equipped to understand the implications of what they are doing or saying online. It’s important to have a conversation with them about what’s appropriate. They need to know they should never use social media to embarrass or hurt someone else.
I say to kids that if their parents would be embarrassed to read or see something they posted online, then they shouldn’t put it out there. Kids think what they text or post is only out there for a minute and disappears, but it doesn’t always.
I recommend to parents to find good resources on this topic and read up on how to best be proactive with their children. I highly recommend the book Raising Teens in the 21st Century by James Wellborn, PhD. Parents can order it from his website drjameswellborn.com. I am also reading a book right now called Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. It’s interesting to me that the author has to keep revising the book because things like social media are changing the game so fast. Other good books are Raising Boys & Girls, Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, and Intentional Parenting, all by Sissy Goff, David Thomas, Stephen James and Melissa Trevanthan.
Worth the wait
I recommend that parents teach children they have to earn their screen time. They have to get their work done first, and then they can play on the iPad.
We are seeing children losing patience with waiting. Our society is becoming so used to instant gratification with texting and things like Google that children are losing their ability to wait for something. It’s important to teach our children patience.
We survived our childhood without phones in our pockets. If a parent wasn’t at practice to pick us up as soon as it was over, we waited.
I’m certainly not implying that children shouldn’t have phones. My kids have phones. But usage can get out of control, so it’s up to the parents to monitor and set parameters.
Also, what goes by the wayside if a child is on his or her iPad for hours after school? Exercise. Kids definitely need more exercise. The American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org) recommends 60 minutes of heart-pumping exercise every day and limiting a child’s screen time to one hour a day for younger kids and up to two hours a day for those 8 and older. That includes television, computer games and all hand-held electronics.
Studies show that despite how much activity a child gets, the more screen time a child has, the more psychological problems a child can have.
It’s a fast-paced world and electronics are a big part of that, but that doesn’t mean we can’t fight back with electronic-free meals together as a family. I encourage you to do it every day. Sit down and talk about their day. If a meal doesn’t work, have a little one-on-one time before bed. I still make an effort to sit with each of my teenage kids wherever they may be in the house before I go to bed just so they will talk to me! Keep the lines of communication open.Share this Article