On April 9th 2014 Beth spoke to parents at AC Stelle middle school in Calabasas about Social Media and teenagers. Today’s teens are growing up in a very different way than we grew up; they are doing their social and emotional development in a public forum; through their social media profiles. According to a study by Pew Research in 2011, 45% of 12 year olds use social networking sites but 82% of 13 year olds use social networking sites. Why does this double? Because between 12 & 13 years old your child’s focus turns away from the family and onto his peers. This is a normal and expected phase of development. Yet, with the advent of social networking sites, kids are looking online to find out what their friends are doing and to tell their friends what they are doing; which is much more public.

Teens are “trying on” different personalities and the social media profiles provide them with a venue to do this that will both seem more anonymous, because of the depersonalization of the computer, and seems to them to be more private way than if they were at school and exposed to everyone. The response that they receive from others to their online profiles can be very influential. A positive response from peers (and trusted, respected adults) can validate and inspire while a negative response could prompt any number of negative responses: irritability, a sudden, swift, change in their profile, their personality, or a rupture in a friendship. Beth recommends handling the adolescent ego with care.

Teens are spending more time than ever online and it is hard for parents to know where to draw the line with computer usage. It is required for homework. Phones are considered a safety consideration when kids are away from the house and there is the inevitable battle that ensues when limits are placed on their electronic usage. So how do you know when your kid has a problem?

Here are some tips from Beth:

  • Limit recreational computer/gaming usage to 30 minutes per day on school nights and 60 minutes on weekends.
  • Watch for shortened attention span and difficulty completing homework or other activities which require sustained attention.

Warning Signs that your child may be over-using social media/electronics or the computer:

  • Drop in grades
  • Withdrawing from contact with friends and family
  • Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Difficulty communicating with others
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety when internet, social media, or computer are removed from them.
  • Inability to function without internet, social media or computer.

If your child starts to show these signs you can help them by placing limits on their usage, guiding your child to structure their free time, increasing their socialization with friends and family and beginning a regular exercise routine. If the behaviors or symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, seek professional help.