I read a story a while back about a 16 year old girl who was addicted to her smart phone. She scrolled Instagram and TikTok endlessly, mindless hours passing by. I guess her parents never set out any social media rules for kids.
But then, one day she decided to quit. Cold turkey. She made a decision to stop scrolling on her phone. No more selfies. No more likes and shares. Now she uses it to make phone calls! I mean, who does that!?
My kids tell me they’re not big on social media. What do they mean by that? They don’t have lots of followers? Or are they not using it very much? I wonder…
Of course, when I was growing up there was no such thing as social media. Other than a bunch of us getting together to watch Hockey Night In Canada on someone’s tv. Now that was “social media”!
But the world has changed so much since I was a teenager. (I promise I won’t say “Back in my day…”) With iPhones and Android devices in everyone’s pockets, we’ve never been more connected to the world around us, yet so disconnected at the same time. If there’s something you want to do on your device, there’s an app for that. Personally I’d rather have a nap for that…
Social Media Rules For Our Kids?
When our kids were young, we made valiant attempts at controlling their amount of screen time. We even periodically checked their devices to see what kind of activity they engaged in. But we didn’t stick with it, like so many other parents. Instead we told ourselves that, maybe our kids won’t fall into the bad screen habits. We weren’t so concerned with social media. It was all about screen time and who or what they might be engaging with. So we also didn’t establish any social media rules for our kids.
Things are different now. Our children are teenagers, and their lives revolve around their friends. Social media is almost inevitable. So now what?
Even though we never created any hard and fast social media rules for our kids, we did talk to them about it. A lot. I think that, by keeping lines of communication open with our children, we did help create a positive environment for the responsible use of social media. Sounds great, right? Yeah, dream on!
Social Media And Emotional Intelligence
But seriously, our kids both are astute observers of people. They pay attention to those around them, whether it’s friends, fellow students, teachers or the general public. I think they’re very good judges of character. But what does that have to do with social media? Plenty. Because they pay attention to other people’s behaviour, as well as their social habits, they develop a pretty good picture of people’s emotional intelligence and intellect.
I believe a person’s emotional intelligence correlates with how much they rely on social media for their day to day interactions. Consider this: spending hours a day on social media apps means those apps are feeding you exactly what you want to see. They’re providing you your own world view, your opinions, your beliefs. They reinforce your closed view of the world.
Here’s a great paragraph from logoffmovement.org, a website and movement dedicated to lowering the impact social media has on the development of teens.
This article from the same website is an excellent read if you’re interested in diving a little deeper into the idea of social media being linked to emotional intelligence. There are several other great articles on social media and teens on their blog.
Okay, but what about our own kids? Where are they really at with this social media beast?
Zach spends a fair amount of time online, usually playing video games with his friends. They communicate through an audio link with Discord. If you aren’t familiar with Discord, it is a voice, video and text chat app that is used by millions of people. Zach and his friends can be at their respective homes and “hang out” together, while playing video games on their own computers and chatting about whatever 17 year old kids chat about. It’s probably the same thing me and my friends used to chat about when we were 17. Actually their conversations are probably a lot more intelligent than ours were…
Zachary has an Instagram account, but only so he can stay connected with his Improv Instagram account. He doesn’t use TikTok, or Facebook (old people’s social media), or any of the other social media platforms. He’s just not interested.
Beth-Rose seems similarly disinterested. She spends more time watching shows than engaging on social media. But that doesn’t mean she won’t start into it later on. So I figured I should at least set her and Zachary on the right path to using social media responsibly. And if you have teenagers, or soon-to-be teenagers, then here’s some simple social media rules for kids.
Social Media Rules For Kids-Best Practice
And remember, I’m not a social media expert. My rules should not be considered, in any way, expert advice. So much for the legal disclaimer. Here’s my rules!
1. Don’t Post Photos Of Your Dinner
It’s true. Unless you’re a world renowned chef, or Gordon Ramsay, then don’t fill your feed with food photos. No one cares what you had for dinner, and no one wants to see you noshing on your homemade nachos. It’s kinda gross. However, if you have an amazing cheesecake recipe, then by all means, upload those pix. And don’t forget to tag me!
2. No Selfies
I used to work with someone who posted their daily “duck-faced selfie” on Facebook. Don’t know what a duck-faced selfie is? Well, here’s mine.
Scary right!? This is why I always say, “friends don’t let friends post duck-faced selfies!” I mean, why would you think your friends would want to see daily images of you puckering up? I can understand it if you’re an influencer like me, but for anyone else it’s just a waste of pixels. So skip the selfies, and find something else to share. I suggest rule #4 or #5 as a start.
3. Always Pause Before Posting
This is the sad thing about social media. For some people, this may be their only form of interaction. They sit in their homes, anonymous to all, and spew their diatribe and hate all over their social networks. They share their opinions about everything they don’t know, all from the safety of their computer.
Pissed off about the lousy service you had at the local Starbucks? That’s no reason to fire up the old laptop and bitch to your local Facebook group. That kind of posting just leads to a perpetual chain of disgruntled haters lining up to share their latest beef. And who needs that kind of toxic negativity?
So I suggest a pause. If you’ve read something online that has gotten you riled up, maybe take a couple of deep breaths and count to ten before hitting the <Send> button. Once those comments are out in the web, there’s no taking them back.
And if you have a bunch of friends who always post their negative diatribe, or the latest conspiracy theory, you may want to consider unfollowing them. Better to fill you feed with positivity and good news. Your sanity will thank you!
4. Choose Humor Over Drama
There is a lot of funny stuff on social media, and online in general. I remember early on in the COVID pandemic, there were some pretty brilliant memes showing up on my Facebook feed. I was always impressed by the level of humor that people generated.
Humor is universal. It doesn’t matter where you hail from. Humor is one of our first communication methods. It bridges language, demographics and culture (with certain limits!).
Humor creates unity by building connections with people. Laughter is, after all, an important social activity.
Laughter creates positive memories, far more than drama. An interesting study found that just 42 percent of positive experiences were forgotten, while 60 percent of negative experiences disappeared from memory. And if your social media post is funny, it’s more likely to be shared.
So when you have a choice, and you always do, choose humor over drama. You’ll feel good, your followers will feel good, and you won’t need to give yourself a time out for shouting those bad words at your computer screen.
5. Cats And Dogs Are Always Allowed
Both Beth-Rose and Zachary’s phones are filled with photos and videos of our two cats. Sometimes when we’re just sitting around, we’ll pass the devices around and laugh at the silliness of our pets. And we’re not alone! Millions of people around the world have filled up their electronic devices with pics and vids of their fur friends. And are happy to share their cuteness with the rest of us.
There are some studies that claim looking at cute and funny animal videos is good for our brain. Watching a funny animal video we’ve never seen before triggers a shot of dopamine, instantly boosting our mood. So those adorable pet videos overwhelming the internet are always welcome. Just don’t lose all the daylight hours down the deep, never-ending rabbit hole of cuteness!
For your viewing pleasure, here’s a prime example of pet humor.
*Confession* Some hours may have been lost in the creation of this article. All in the interest in research…