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5 Tips to Help Your Children Use Social Networking Safely

Written by Dana Udall-Weiner, Ph.D  courtesy of  psychcentral.com:

1. Talk to your teen about their time online.

 Talking to your kids about how they use social media and technology helps them break out of autopilot and become more mindful of their actions and reactions, Udall-Weiner said. “[This] is an important skill when it comes to developing emotional competence.” It’s important for teens to understand how being online affects them (such as their mood).

 She suggested asking your kids these questions: “Which websites do you often visit?  How do you feel emotionally, both during and after using these sites? Have you ever had any uncomfortable experiences online, or seen anything upsetting? Do you believe that there are any downsides to viewing the sites you regularly visit, or to using the Internet in general?”

2. Teach your teen to be media literate.

 A mistake parents often make, according to Udall-Weiner, is that they don’t teach their kids about media literacy. But it’s vital for kids to understand that what they see isn’t what they get online. For instance, “Parents need to actively remind their children that images are not reality—that no one is as thin, perfectly-muscled, unwrinkled, or flawless as that person in the ad.” She suggested visiting Media Smarts for more information.

3. Set time limits on Internet use.

 Teens are still developing their executive functions, which include monitoring behavior, organizing information and setting goals, she said. Plus, spending too much time on sites like Facebook can make teens feel worse. “My clients regularly tell me that they become very upset after looking at Facebook, since everyone looks happier, thinner, or more popular than they feel.” So parents might need to set restrictions on Internet use.

4. Surrender all phones before bedtime.

 “This is a way to ensure that kids aren’t up late texting or surfing the web, rather than getting precious sleep,” Udall-Weiner said. This rule also applies to parents’ phones, “since kids emulate what they see.”

5. Know the research about Internet use.

 Research has suggested that looking at images of thin models — which are splashed all over the Internet — may be associated with various negative consequences. “After seeing these images, people report things like decreased self-esteem, poor body image, depression, guilt, shame, stress, and an urge to engage in eating-disordered behavior, such as restricting food intake,” said Udall-Weiner. She also specializes in body image and eating disorders and founded ED Educate, a website with resources for parents.

Research also has suggested that the Internet makes us feel more disconnected from others, she said. “It’s important for teens to know the research on Internet use.” Talk to your kids about these findings.

 

Click on the link to read Monitoring Children’s Social Networking Activities Proving too Difficult for Parents

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