As digital parents, it's our responsibility to teach our kids to use social media wisely and well. A few simple rules can make a world of difference.
Newsflash: Facebook is not the devil. And Instagram, Snap, TikTok and Twitter aren’t either.
But scanning recent headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking that. From porn to privacy breaches and misinformation to mood disorders, social media cops the blame for a lot.
The truth is, our favourite platforms are a double-edged digital sword. Sure, they can wreak havoc and sow discord. But used mindfully and with intention, they can be harnessed to make the world a better place. And it’s our responsibility as digital parents to show our kids how.
By the numbers
Recent surveys show 87% of kids aged 12 to 15 had a social media account in 2020 - and so do half of 10- to 12-year-olds and a third of kids seven to nine. And that’s according to their parents. (So much for 13+ age restrictions!) Among teens, social media use is virtually universal.
Social media penetration for all age groups in Australia is around 80%, and on average we spend roughly one-third of our online time scrolling our socials. That clocks in at an hour and three-quarters daily.
We can use that time wisely - and teach our kids to do the same - by following a few simple rules.
Doom-scrolling really is the devil. The habit of consuming bad news posts and images - which the pandemic has driven to new depths - is a proven mental health hazard. Do your part to reverse the trend by searching out good news to share. Some call it “hope-scrolling.” Follow profiles and pages that are rich sources of feel-good content - The Good News Network and Happy News are great places to start.
What’s more, thanks to the echo-chamber effect of social media algorithms, you’ll discover the gift of good news will just keep giving. Once those algorithms detect your preference for sunshine, you’ll find your feed growing brighter and brighter with each passing day.
Yes, it can be fun to post that perfect shot of your cocktail at sunset or show off those matching Christmas pajamas. But social media can be so much more powerful than that. Show you care by following and sharing posts from organisations that reflect your core values. Social justice. Compassion. Climate action. Animal rights. Holiday sunsets and snarky memes are all well and good. But you go deeper than that … don’t you??
Everybody knows social media is an incredible way to reach out to family and friends. But we may be less aware of those that aren’t active users - those in our immediate circle or wider community who may be isolated or simply lonely.
Not sure how? One idea is simply to send a silly (or serious) greeting based on a world or national day of recognition. There is at least one - and often several - for every day of the year, from “National Opposite Day” (25 January) to “International Day of Happiness” (20 March).
Remember the ice-bucket challenge that took the online world by storm a few years back? A crazy but highly effective way of promoting awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and encouraging donations to research, it involved pouring a bucket of ice water over your own head, or another person’s.
People loved doing this challenge. And part of the reason why, say researchers, is that being kind to others boosts our own happiness too.
Help your kids to create a fun, online kindness challenge. It doesn’t have to be anything ridiculous or extreme - just an invitation to perform an ordinary act of kindness every day for a week, say, whether running an errand for someone, buying a cool drink for a homeless person, or giving your place in line to someone else.
The thing about kindness? It’s contagious.
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