If you’ve been worried about your teen’s social media usage, it would seem your concerns are now legitimized by hard facts and figures.
Recent Congressional testimony by former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen supports the notion that Facebook and its photo-sharing app, Instagram, can be harmful to young users. Haugen recently presented internal studies revealing the negative mental health impacts of Instagram and told Congress that Facebook has prioritized growth over its users’ safety.
Those who have been working toward keeping young people safe online for years say that parents will need to step up to protect their kids.
“Parents should not rely on social media networks to ensure their children’s safety online,” says Michele Havner, director of marketing at Eturi Corp., maker of OurPact, a leading parental control and screen time app. “This is one of the many reasons why we’ve developed OurPact so parents can teach smart digital habits and protect their kids.”
According to Havner, here are a few ways you can help protect teens in the age of social media:
• Set digital schedules. Feeling “addicted” to social media and screens in general is common. However, setting digital schedules can help ensure that you and your teen are leading a balanced life.
• Block unwanted apps and websites: Ensure your teen is only using apps and visiting sites that are approved by you. Using parental control apps to block apps, websites and contacts as needed can help you protect your child from unsafe people and content.
• Maintain open communication: The newly-released research draws links between social media usage and depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Be sure to regularly check in with your teen and keep the lines of communication open.
• Use new tools: New tech tools can help you get a handle on your teen’s social media usage, as well as help you help them carve out healthy digital habits. For example, OurPact, a parental guidance app used by over 1 million families, allows you to create automated schedules for when internet and apps are unavailable, block access to the device for a specified period of time, whitelist and blacklist websites, and even take screenshots of digital activity. Available at the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, parents can also sign up for an account at www.ourpact.com.
Ultimately, keeping kids safe is critical. With tech tools and an open dialogue, parents can help kids form healthy digital habits.