The holidays can be the most wonderful time of year, but for some it can be a toxic time, full of anxiety and endless scrolling. Studies show social media use among children spikes about 70% during the holiday season, for a total of more than eight hours per day.
“But not everything about social media has to be negative. There are some positive aspects,” explained Jaspreet Kaur, school counselor at Learn4Life, a network of 80+ high schools that offers personalized learning, school counseling services and life skills training. extra counseling and life skills training. “Parents need to be aware of what social media platforms their teens are on, encourage them to reduce their time online and look for new ways to interact both on and offline.” She offers these tips for parents:
- Reality Check – Remind your child that social media posts are picture-perfect highlight reels not based on reality.
- Fear of Missing Out – Nix your child’s FOMO on fun by helping them plan activities that are meaningful to them, instead of copying what they see other people doing online.
- Branch Out – Instead of following the same kids at school or celebrities, encourage your child to follow people or groups that share their interests. Social media platforms can also be a good way to expose your child to current events, allow them to interact across geographic barriers and provide them with valuable support. This is especially critical for children who experience exclusion or have disabilities or chronic illnesses.
- Spread Holiday Cheer– Encourage your teen to use social media to reach out to someone who may be lonely during the holidays, like a neighbor or faraway relative.
- Put Safety First – As always, make safety a top priority. Remind your child not to add people they don’t know, give out personal information and to think carefully before interacting with strangers, or posting pictures or other content.
“Social media can prevent us from experiencing and enjoying the present,” said Kaur. “We should delight in spending time with loved ones and doing special holiday activities – not scrolling and scrolling to see what other people are doing. This is an important lesson parents can teach their teens.”