Help your child build healthy social media habits

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Online activities are one of the major ways that children socialize today. We went to the mall; your kids might be more likely to spend time in a digital world or share social media posts with each other.

These interactions can build community, too. When surveyed by AP-NORC, 78% of teens said that social media made them feel closer to their friends; 40% find that it helps them stay connected to family members and loved ones.

But social media can also have downsides. Some children encounter cyberbullies, or develop start to feel bad when comparing themselves to influencers online. That's why it's important to start talking to your kids about healthy social media use early on.

How to talk to kids about social media habits.

Parents of young kids may want to frame the importance of online boundaries in terms they'll understand. For example, your kids might know that you don't let them eat sugar all day long because it isn’t good for their growing bodies or well-being (or for your patience, but that's another story). 


Older kids might respond to information about effects that social media can have on their focus and concentration. And if you have teens, you may even find that they want to reduce their time spent scrolling on a favorite app but aren't sure where to start.

5 healthy social media habits to build together.

If your own digital habits aren't perfect—no judgment! Improvement can be a family affair. 

1. Turn off notifications.

Each time your phone dings with a notification, it disrupts your attention or train of thought. This can make schoolwork, music rehearsal, sports practice, and family time harder for kids to focus on. Turning them off will help mitigate this. 

If your kids are afraid they'll miss out on something great because they don't have their notifications on, you may want to suggest a trial period. Evaluate how they feel before and after turning off these alerts—they may be surprised to learn they weren't missing out on as much as they feared! 

2. Set screen time limits.

Let your kids know that setting limits on screen time (or on specific social media apps, which you can do with parental controls) isn't about you controlling or spying on them. 

Make it a family conversation about when, and for how long, your children can access their favorite apps. Of course, you'll get the final say—you're their parent! But making your kids and teens an active part of the process can help them feel like social media is something they control, not something that controls them.

3. Think about how social media makes you feel.

It's also important to have your kids really think about how social media makes them feel. 

You may find that your kids have an issue with controlling how much they use all social media platforms—or that they generally enjoy YouTube but walk away from TikTok feeling worse or comparing themselves to others. 

Every child and teen will be different. Their answers can help you decide how much access to allow every day, and which apps to limit first.

4. Regularly unfollow accounts.

It's all too easy to click follow on every social media account that seems vaguely interesting or connected to you in some way. (We're all guilty of "friending" old classmates we didn't even get along with way back in high school.) 

Together, you and your child can look at the accounts they follow—or ones that follow them—and ask the following questions:

  • Do I know this person offline?
  • Does this account post content that makes me laugh or teaches me new things?
  • Does this account make me feel stressed or scared?
  • Do I remember why I followed this account?
  • Do I want this person to be able to see the content that I post?

5. Curate your social media algorithm.

Unfortunately, most of today's social media feeds aren't just lists of photos and videos posted by the accounts you follow. 

Much of our social media content is fed to us by an algorithm—one that's regularly fine-tuned to our preferences by the way we interact with posts. 

It's actually possible to block specific topics from appearing in your and your kids' feeds, though. Here's how to do it on four of the most popular social media platforms for teens:

  • TikTok: Long-press on a video to bring up options; select the one that says "not interested."
  • Instagram: Click the three dots next to a post and select "don't show for this hashtag."
  • YouTube: Click the three dots next to a YouTube Short and select "not interested." (You can also stop all YouTube recommendations by turning off your watch history in your account settings.)
  • Snapchat: Open up the Discover feed and press and hold on a video. Select "hide" in the menu that pops up.

Keep an eye on young social media users.

Social media platforms are designed to be addictive, and it's easy for kids and teens to fall back into bad habits over time.

Regularly check in with your kids around how social media makes them feel. 

If you spot symptoms of anxiety, stress, or cyberbullying, it may be time to re-evaluate how you're using your parental control app—or even decide it’s time to take a break from all social media usage.

And remember that their frustration will pass. Were you mad when your parents didn't let you go to see a Britney Spears concert in 1998? Sure. Does that still keep you up at night now? Probably not. It may not be apparent to your kids now, but one day, they'll realize you had their best interests—and mental health—in mind.

By explaining that too much social media can make them feel bad, just like too much sugar, it frames the technology as something not to be totally avoided—just to be used in moderation, like a sweet treat. 

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