Navigating social media addiction: Parenting teens online

Social media has become an integral part of all our lives, allowing us to connect, share experiences, and express ourselves. However, things can get more complicated when it comes to navigating the challenges that come with our adolescents' digital journeys. How can you help your teens to establish a healthy balance in the digital world?


Problematic social media use

The term 'social media addiction' describes a pattern of excessive and compulsive use of social media platforms that can impact mental health, relationships and academic performance. While the term often sparks discussions and headlines, it's worth considering if this term accurately captures problematic social media use?

While parents might observe what appears to be compulsive behaviour in their children, professionals have differing opinions on whether labelling it as 'addiction' is entirely fitting. In this article, I'll use the term to describe problematic social media use.

6 steps to help your teen with social media addiction

If you've noticed your teen is spending excessive time online and withdrawing from activities offline, you have seen changes in their mood and declining academic performance; this could be a sign of social media addiction. Social media usage can increase loneliness, anxiety, and depression among adolescents. So what steps can you take to support them?

1. Open communication

Start by discussing this with your teen to work out strategies together. Working together is more likely to produce positive results compared to imposing solutions. Create an environment that allows them to talk to you about their online experiences. If they feel comfortable sharing what they enjoy about their online interactions, they'll be more likely to open up about their challenges.

2. Set healthy boundaries

Balancing online time with offline activities is crucial. Remind your teen of the activities they enjoy away from screens, such as sports, reading, or spending time with friends in person. Consider implementing designated screen-free times, like after 9pm, and establishing tech-free zones in the house, such as bedrooms.

3. Lead by example

Remember that your kids are watching and learning from what you do. Be a positive role model by practising healthy tech habits yourself. The screen-free times and tech-free zones go for you, too! You might be surprised at the positive impact of stowing phones away and out of reach, particularly overnight.

4. Encourage offline interests

Support them to explore real-world hobbies and interests such as dance, sport, crafts, and cosplay. Help them find a balance between their virtual and real-world experiences. 

5. Maintain a balanced view 

Social media is not all bad. It is an excellent platform for creativity, learning and connecting with friends when used consciously. 

6. Help them regulate their use

Self-regulation is difficult for tweens and teens because of where they are developmentally. Help them work this out. Chat with them about the potential impact of excessive use on them. They are likely aware of the risks of cyberbullying and online harassment (unfortunately).

The pressure of comparing themselves to others' curated online lives can result in low self-esteem and a distorted sense of reality. Help them set their goals for their screen time by working collaboratively with them. You can gently guide them without being forceful or dictatorial – that's a surefire way to robust resistance.

Are you concerned about your teen's relationship with social media?

If you suspect your teen might be struggling with social media addiction and are worried it's affecting their overall well-being, don't hesitate to reach out for guidance and support. 

As a counsellor specialising in working with parents of tweens and teens, I'm here to help you navigate the challenges of the digital age. We can create strategies to foster healthy online habits and strengthen family bonds. Contact me via my Counselling Directory profile today to schedule a session.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People constantly rush, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted. I specialise in supporting parents and carers as they navigate their child's tween and teenage years. Contact me for an introductory chat by phone.

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