Making Social Media A Little Less Unhappy – Lake County Record-Bee

By Mike Jones, KHS Director and Adriana Macias-Rodriguez, KHS Deputy Director

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. It has become a part of modern life for almost everyone, including our students. According to a recent Pew Research study, 95 percent of US teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 have access to a smartphone, with more than a third admitting they use one or more of the major social media platforms “almost constantly.” That adds up to a lot of screen time — about 7.5 hours a day for the average kid, according to Common Sense Media.

To be fair, social media has a few perks worth mentioning. It gives children the opportunity to connect with their peers, especially around common interests and hobbies. Students can also discover resources and learning opportunities, and get up-to-date information from school staff and teachers. Social media platforms can even be a great outlet for creative expression.

Unfortunately, the consequences often outweigh the benefits. Social media can have a significant impact on children’s mental and physical health. After staring at their phones late into the night, students come to school the next morning tired with poor posture and tired eyes, making it difficult for them to concentrate in class. And that is just the beginning. More serious problems, such as the skyrocketing rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers, are also being linked to social media, in part due to the pervasive cyberbullying that is occurring. And kids these days are so used to doing everything online that they don’t hang out in person as often, leading to a sense of isolation.

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As much as some of us would love to ban smartphones entirely, it’s just not realistic. They’ve become an essential part of our connection, whether it’s staying in touch with family or communicating with employers. Instead, at Kelseyville Unified, we take proactive steps to encourage children to use phones and social media responsibly.

First off, at Kelseyville High School we have a policy prohibiting the use of the phone during class, with severe penalties for violating the rules, including loss of phone privileges. We also address social media directly, engaging students and families with initiatives like our Kindness Campaign and events like Family Night Out, where guest speakers provide information and share resources about cyberbullying and responsible use of social media. Earlier this month, for example, Monique Turner of the nonprofit Family Purpose led a discussion on the negative effects of social media with great tips for protecting our children.

But there’s only so much we can do here at school. We ask parents to do what we cannot: take an active role in managing their children’s social media use.

It all starts with interest and commitment. Think about the time your kids spend online. Do you know what they’re seeing or who they’re talking to? One way to find out is to ask. Social media is a huge part of their world. So, by knowing about their social media, you can learn a lot about what influences their decisions. Be proactive instead of waiting for something bad to happen. Start a conversation about what they do online.

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If you think your kids are struggling with negative consequences from excessive social media use, a conversation is a good place to start, but it may not be enough. Consider setting limits on their social media use — and maybe their phone use overall. It can be difficult as a parent to know where the line of privacy lies. You want to trust your children, but you also need to know that they are safe and healthy. trust your instincts

Perhaps set specific times when your kids can or cannot use their phones, or encourage them to engage in activities that don’t require screens. Planned social media breaks can help normalize device-free time. You can even incentivize appropriate use of social media. Just make sure you’re an upstanding digital citizen yourself. Children see what family members post on social media and how they interact with others, and they are likely to mimic that behavior.

Every child has a unique relationship with their phone. Some kids can handle more screen time, some less, but when it comes to social media, they all need supervision. Start taking an interest in what they do online while keeping an eye on their physical and mental health. A few questions and a few boundaries can help ensure that social media creates more good than trouble in your child’s life.