Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, probably the most frequented apps for teens. On average, young adults spend eight hours a day on their screens, mostly phones. Many parents worry about the impact of all that time not spent interacting in person, studying or exercising.
Once you make a decision to get your child a phone, the next request will probably be about social media. When is the right age to let them sign up?
Bottom line, don’t let them lie about their age. Most apps require the user to be 13 years old but that still doesn’t mean they are ready. At that age, talk with your kids about the pros and cons of social media. Can they handle the comments, fear of missing out, the negative or provocative images they may encounter?
Yes, that includes a conversation about sexting, sending nude pictures and the idea that adults may befriend them for nefarious reasons. Many experts recommend that Snapchat be off limits until the age of 15 or 16 due to the temporary features of the platform. The teenage brain is not fully developed and they still need to fine-tune their impulse control. They may act without thinking and send a photo or ask for a photo without a thought about the ramifications of such an act. Snapchat also lets the user track the whereabouts of friends which can lead to anxiousness and stress if not invited to a get-together.
Naturally, be your child’s friend or follower on social media. Set a few ground rules and time limits on their devices. It would be smart to take their phone and charge it in your bedroom for the evening so your child won’t be tempted to be on it late into the night. Studies show late night cell phone time can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem and depression due to lack of sleep and a focus on things out of a teen’s control. In fact, it is a good idea for the whole family to have a cell phone curfew. It may be hard to put the phone away, but you will never regret being a good example.