If you’re a parent, your mental bandwidth has really been put to the test as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  From trying to navigate Zoom calls to suddenly taking a crash course in homeschooling your children, you’ve relied on giving your kids more access to social media just to give you a break.

However, as the pandemic lingers into the summer, you’ve become more and more worried that your children are being exposed to sites that may be harmful to them.

So as parents how should you help your children manage their increase usage of their cell phone and social media during the ongoing pandemic and beyond while maintaining a sense of control over what they are exposed to. Here are 7 tips to help you gain more control over your child’s social media access.

#1 Make sure your child uses current privacy settings.   

According to a survey conducted by Lenhart and Madden, 43 percent of teen users have been contacted online by strangers, and 17 percent of teen SNS users have become ‘‘friends’’ with whom they have never personally met. This is the catalyst for inappropriate behavior to occur. Some simple things your teens can do include: password protection, adding privacy settings and intermittently pruning your contact list.

   #2 Make sure they think twice before they hit send.

Taylor Selfridge and Dee Nguyen were recently fired by MTV for racists’ comments on Social Media posts they made in the past. So, your teen may think in some of their posts are just being funny, or they’re getting something off of their chest, but if it happens to be insensitive or damaging to another person, it may haunt them in the long run.

#3 Monitor their online presence.   

Your teen’s online daily usage has been linked to mental and physical problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, sleep deprivation and obesity. If you can decrease the amount of time online just a little bit each week, you will see an increase in self-esteem, life satisfaction and happiness.

#4 Establish enforceable rules with consequences.

I remind our children all the time that this phone is a rental they don’t pay for, and therefore it can be removed from their hands at any time. Now that may seem a little harsh, but you want them to understand that this phone is a privilege. So, let them know if rules that you have established in regards to the living in your house are violated then there will be consequences.

#5 Stay up on the latest trends. 

Not only will it help know what sites teens are using, but it will help you bring up topics or conversations they will never mention to you. For example, one in three teens have been cyberbullied, but more than likely you will never know about it because the tactics teens use can be psychologically damaging.

#6 Attend a social media conference.

We as parents tend to think social media is bad for teens, it is slowly becoming a way for teens to make money. From Instagram posts, to YouTube Channels, start-up brands look to teens to carry their message. So if your teenager is passionate about something have them create a channel. It may help them get paid for something they love.

#7 Create a life beyond their cell. 

A 2016 poll revealed that 50% of teens feel addicted to their phones.  And that is not just texting, it includes:

Texting with friends and checking for incoming texts

Listening to music and watching videos using headphones

Checking e-mail and social media accounts

Playing single-player video games and interactive multi-player games

Worrying about cell phone battery life and access to electrical power.

The problem is that cell phone can be so intense it will keep them from being present with the family.  So what’s a parent to do? As a family you should create no screen days or weekends, in order to truly connect and allow them to think, create, and dream.

One great thing about the cell phone, the messages, texts and tweets will still be there, but your child’s sanity and peace will not, so  whatever tips you can implement to help them the better.

If you are having difficulty setting boundaries with your teens around their phone and social media, please contact Keith Dent at info@keithdent.com. Keith Dent is a life and relationship coach. You can find him at keithdent.com.

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Help young teenagers find their voice and thrive emotionally as they prepare for high school