How parents should deal with teens’ social media use

Parents should practice social media training with their kids in order to help them be more thoroughly informed about the benefits and drawbacks of using the platforms, according to new guidance released by the American Psychological Association.

The recommendations were developed by research psychologists who examined the implications of increased use of social media among young people.

“We are using psychological science to inform and empower parents to look at steps they can take to help our children feel safer and more connected,” said Thema Bryant, president of the American Psychological Association.

Children should, at an early age, be taught to question the accuracy of what they see on social media, researchers said.

“Just because they read something or hear something on social media doesn’t mean it’s true,” Bryant said. “They should have those critical thinking skills so they can think for themselves and also come back to their parents and other trusted adults to verify information.”

Another recommendation was that kids should be informed “explicitly and repeatedly” that their behaviors on social media will likely generate data that will be stored and shared for commercial purposes.

“It really is important for young people to be aware of how they are targeted with particular advertisements,” Bryant said.

The recommendations called for broad adult monitoring of social media content when kids are between 10 and 14 years old, specifically.

Parents were encouraged to routinely screen for signs of “problematic social media use” that can impair their ability to engage in daily routines, including a tendency to use social media even when it interferes with necessary tasks or leads to less sleep at night.

Data indicate that technology use within one hour of bedtime is associated with sleep disruptions.

“It is important for parents to establish those boundaries, so there can be healthy sleep schedules and healthy rest,” Bryant said. “The importance of us initiating those conversations is so important because we don’t want to wait for things to escalate.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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