10 Reasons Why It’s Important To Establish Social Media Rules For Teens Early On
We know that technology is here to stay, and today’s kids are born with a phone in hand. But that doesn’t mean kids don’t need help navigating a world of distraction and the bombardment of information. If we want them to be responsible digital citizens, we have to teach them how. We can’t give kids technology without giving them some infrastructure in the form of rules. After working with teens for 15 years, I have especially strong feelings about establishing social media rules for teens.
Here are 11 reasons why it’s essential to be proactive when it comes to technology, and exceptionally clear about your social media rules for teens.
1) Teens are sponges. They are great observers but terrible interpreters. While social media offers connection, it wasn’t created for children with developing brains. Without rules and limits, teens are exposed to a world far beyond their maturity and understanding.
2) Rules are necessary for teens. Clear boundaries save them from themselves. If left to their own devices, they would eat candy, never brush their teeth, and screen their faces off.
3) Adults tend to assume teens know more than they do. Though they look like adults, teens are emotionally immature. I believe in privacy for teens. But when it comes to social media, which is public, they need to know their parents are watching. Until they earn your trust by being consistently thoughtful on social, don’t assume that they can be left to their own devices.
4) Teens seek their friends’ acceptance, and social media is full of herd mentality. Teens will go to great lengths to gain it in the form of likes, posts, and comments. When they get “liked” their brains respond. One study at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, concluded that receiving a high number of likes on photos showed increased activity in the reward center of the brain.
5) Social media makes many of us feel lonely and depressed. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania concluded that decreasing our time on these platforms helps us feel better about ourselves. Constantly looking at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, makes it easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better.
6) Social media impacts our ability to focus. According to Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin Madison and founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds, “We suffer from a national attention deficit.” The consequences of this nation-wide disorder are not yet fully understood. But when our devices capture our attention, our ability to direct our minds is impaired. Without rules for social media use, a teen’s ability to focus his attention is impaired.
7) Social media triggers big emotions that can last all day. One focus group I led was comprised solely of girls. All 10 of them had the experience of getting “notified” of something during school that made them sad and being unable to focus for the remainder of the day.
8) Real-life is happening, and teens need to be part of it. Teens spend a lot of time online, and not enough time practicing the hard-work of interacting and socializing.
9) There are noticeable communication problems due to social media. Lack of eye contact aside, relying on social media means you have less practice in the communication skills that lead to actual relationships.
10) Teens benefit from downtime and boredom. When they’re surrounded by friends online, it’s difficult for teens to be alone. Many teens find it hard to be alone or enjoy their own company. Regularly using social media means that you are always on.
When it comes to raising kids and working with parents, I rely on what I learned in the decade before I had them. My teaching experience gives me confidence in having boundaries and maker fewer assumptions. When I wear my teacher hat, I put aside my [sometimes emotional] parenting hat. I remember that children are learning all the time– through instruction, experience, or observation. When I assume they know things, I am right half of the time.
But there’s an upside to having boundaries, specifically having social media rules for teens. Social media is a relatively new phenomenon. It’s unclear the impact it has on teens who are undergoing massive growth and change. I hope that you will consider these ten reasons and take an incremental approach to social media. By doing so, they hopefully grow into the kind of adults you’d like to meet: independent, capable, engaged ones who can look you in the eye and have a conversation.