Social Media: Dare to Be Different
This current generation of parents of young children and teens is in an interesting spot. We are old enough to remember a time without smart phones and social media, but we are also young enough to have it seamlessly incorporated into our lives. We now live in a time where our use of social media often goes unquestioned. And more recently, I have started to wonder what exactly this will mean for our children and how they view the world and themselves. I have also thought about how we are uniquely positioned to help them consider an alternative.
Most of us would agree there are many positive things that come from social media use, such as brand exposure (see how to buy Instagram likes to boost this). But because it is such a pervasive and integral part of society, we most often accept it without question rather than critically examining its presence in our lives.
When it comes to our children, I wonder how it would affect them if we dared to be a little different and actually challenge some of our own personal social media use. If we decide we want to cut back or cut it out altogether, we then benefit from more time with our children and the ability to be present in the moment with them, rather than mindlessly scrolling through endless refreshable feeds.
But I propose that there is a deeper layer to the potential benefits of scaling back our social media use that could have even more lasting effects for our children.
We can teach them that our fulfillment isn’t based on having picture-perfect moments. We can show them that life isn’t about social approval. We can model for them that life can be experienced without always having to document it for others. We can help them understand they can choose whether to have social media be part of how they relate to the world or not.
Here are some practical tips that might help limit your own social media use:
- Only use your social media on a desktop
- Take a month break from all social media
- Make it a point to call or text a friend rather than simply liking a post
We can easily list the positives of social media use. And there are many. But on the other hand, I don’t think we always take the time to reflect on the potential positives of limiting social media.
We can take this thought experiment one step further and reflect on some of the benefits of having our school-aged children not use social media.
These might include:
- Increased ability to focus on schoolwork
- Increased ability to tune out distractions
- Decreased cell phone addiction
- Decreased temptation to constantly compare one’s self to others
- Decreased exposure to cyber bullying
Imagine all the things that upset us about our own smartphone and social media use. The constant pull to check our phones and feeds. That frustrating feeling of having spent too much time online. Now think about helping our children avoid some of those things rather than ushering them into a situation where they don’t even realize they have a choice in the matter!
As we gather more and more data on the effects of social media on young people’s brains, there may be even more evidence for why they should avoid or limit this technology until they are older.
As with most things related to parenting, we teach better by example. Consider re-evaluating your own social media use so that you can teach your children to critically evaluate its presence and purpose in their own lives rather than accepting it without question.
Don’t let the fear of missing out keep you and your children from the benefits of daring to be a little different.
Ashley Albert, MD is a radiation oncology resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She is also a writer, wife, and mother to three children who constantly teach her life lessons through their natural curiosity and sense of adventure.