The New Year is always a good time to hit the reset button and establish any new rules you may need. When it comes to our kids and their phones, this may especially apply as we learn the potential connection between smartphone use and depressed and suicidal teens.
Social media can be accessed through a variety of digital devices, but the smartphone is the tool tweens and teens use most to share posts, pictures and personal info.
There are several key pieces to social media that can cause a teen harm including cyberbullying, picture perfect lives, social isolation and a sleep deficit. Please refer to the previous tip, Know! Social Media is Bringing Our Teens Down, for the specific connections to each of those.
Now we must ask ourselves what can we, as parents, do to help protect our children from the potential downward smartphone spiral? Here are some simple, but effective steps:
When it comes to cyberbullying:
It is critical to engage our kids in regular and ongoing conversations on the topic of cyberbullying. Youth must be clear on what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior online (and in-person) and they must know what to do if they find themselves being bullied.
When it comes to those supposed picture perfect lives:
Remind your child that the pictures they see online are only a glimpse into another person’s life – and even then, it’s likely only the pretty parts and only with the help of filters.
When it comes to social isolation:
Limit the time you allow your teen to be online to two hours or less per day – and encourage activities that benefit their mental well-being, like fresh air, exercise, volunteering, meeting new friends, and participating in group activities (to connect with others in the non-virtual world).
When it comes to sleep deficit:
Remove the temptation of late night texting and internet surfing by charging your child’s phone in your bedroom each night. Another thing you can do is sit down with your child and create a cell phone contract to establish or re-establish the rules. Here is a sample cell phone agreement created by youth advocate and expert Josh Shipp.
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Learn how to get the drug prevention conversation started at StartTalking.Ohio.Gov.
Sign-up for Know! Parent Tips.
Return to the Ohio Department of Education’s Start Talking! webpage.
Sources: Josh Shipp: The Teen Cell Phone Agreement. The Washington Post, by Jean Twenge: Teenage depression and suicide are way up — and so is smartphone use, Nov. 2017. SuicidePreventionLifeline.org: Youth.