Is my child or teen ready for social media?                  

Children's Health

by Renita Thomas, MD

Aug 24, 2022

As a parent, it’s only natural to worry about your child’s safety and well-being. With all the potential concerns around social media, you’re not alone in questioning whether your child is ready. Are they old enough? Are they mature enough? Can they handle it safely? How much screen time is too much?

While every child is different, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends preteens (12 years old and younger) should not have access to social media or social networks. If a teenager (13 years old and greater) has the desire to be on a social network or social platform, it needs to be closely monitored by their parents.

If that time is approaching for your teen, here are a few things to keep in mind as you introduce your child to social media and establish healthy limits.

Get familiar with the platform

Parents should research the social networking platform, make an account and learn how to navigate the platform. Be sure to “friend” your teenager on social platforms to monitor their activity. It’s also a good idea to request passwords for all devices.

Have an open dialogue

There needs to be an open and honest conversation with your teenager(s) about safety on social media. Always be open to answering their questions and concerns.

Discuss with your teens the importance of privacy. Warn them about the dangers of predators, as there are sex offenders on social networks, chatrooms, emails and online gaming networks who use media to exploit youth. Warn them about the dangers of sexting and remind them to never send inappropriate pictures, as it is not something you can delete or undo. Talk to your teens about cyberbullying, violence and body image. 

Related: 5 simple yet powerful habits for a healthy family

You know your child best

Remember, one size does not fit all and every teenager is affected differently by social media. Social media can become a problem for vulnerable teenagers and some may simply not be ready for it.

Several platforms have a surplus of circulating information on topics like extreme dieting, excessive exercise regimens and unrealistic body image. If your child has body image concerns and/or has struggled with an eating disorder, they may need to either avoid social media completely or need frequent check-ins and close monitoring of the content they are viewing, as well as their feelings, emotions and well-being.  

At the end of the day, you know your child best. Trust your instincts as a parent and keep in mind your child’s pediatrician or family doctor is always here to support you.

Create reasonable rules

Children and teenagers need time away from social media and screens. They need sufficient sleep nightly and physical activity daily. Excessive time spent on the web can take away from these daily needs.

So, parents need to create reasonable rules regarding media and stand firm by them. Here are a few examples:

  • Enforce media-free times, such as during mealtime at the table and at social gatherings with family or friends.
  • Set a bedtime curfew for media and create tech-free zones.
  • Keep devices such smartphones, TVs and computers outside the child’s bedroom.
  • Recharge electronics outside of the bedroom.  

Growing up in a digital world

Today, our children are growing up in a digital world with access to information at their fingertips—both bad and good. For their safety, there needs to be reasonable rules and limitations, frequent conversations and parental monitoring of their activity on digital and social media.

Also, remember that you set the example for your children. Be mindful of your own device use and try to stay present in the moment with your children and teens, so they see what a healthy balance looks like.

If you are worried about your child’s activity on social media or are unsure if they are ready for social media, talk to your pediatrician to weigh in their expertise and recommendations. 

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