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When Should Your Child Get Social Media?

ages 11 years - 18 years ages 5 years - 11 years choices & checkpoints milestones screen time May 14, 2024


In the ever-evolving digital age, the question of when and how to introduce our children to social media is one that looms large for many parents.  Parents should take a serious look at the pros and cons of social media use in kids before making any decisions.  In this post, I’ll provide you with the information necessary to make a decision about whether your child should begin using social media and introduce some valuable tips for easing the transition.


The Pros of Social Media Use For Kids

  • Entertainment: how fun is it to share memes with friends?
  • Exploring interests, from watching dancing videos to art tutorials to fashion tips.
  • Developing a sense of social connectedness and support, connecting with people who identify with the same beliefs or values, which research has shown to be especially important for kids who identify as LGBTQIA.
  • Increased connection to school events and local community-building opportunities.
  • An outlet for creativity and self-expression.

Probably the biggest motivator for allowing your kids to use social media is keeping them in the social norm to minimize the potential for feelings of isolation or rejection.
 That same idea of wanting to fit in on the playground comes into play here.  Except at this age, it’s more hovering over your phone as you walk from class to class or sitting at a lunch table and barely interacting with the people right next to you because you’re all staring at your phones.  Do your kids need access to social media to fit in?  Not necessarily.  Does not having social media mean they’re more likely to stand out?  Probably.

The Cons of Social Media Use For Kids

  • Social media puts added pressure on kids: they have to behave well at home and at school, excel academically, and perform well in their extracurricular activities, and now they also need to curate interesting and appealing content across different social media platforms.  There’s only so much one person can handle before it becomes too much.
  • It adds more drama to their lives.  The perceived anonymity on social media leads to people making more negative comments than they would normally say in public.  For children and teens, whose brains are still developing the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate complex social situations, these risks are magnified.
  • Negative experiences are magnified by the amount of reach social media has.  What would be one bullying comment in a face-to-face interaction can turn into a cascade of cyberbullying that can have an enormous impact on your child’s feelings.  
  • What your child views on social media affects how they value themselves, especially when it comes to appearance.  Social media exposure can lead to unrealistic bodily image ideals and potentially result in disordered eating.
  • Passive social media use, including scrolling through feeds, can make teens feel less connected to others.
  • Privacy issues: Let’s face it: once information is on the internet in any form, you have no control over what happens to it.

Most importantly, adolescence is a vulnerable time period when kids are growing and changing and trying to form a sense of self-identity and self-worth. 
Studies have shown that excessive screen time, especially in teen girls, is related to double the depressive symptoms of moderate social media users.


Setting Boundaries: The First Step to Responsible Use

How do you resolve the disparity between the benefits of social media use and the very significant negative effects of social media use?  While some parents choose not to allow social media at all to minimize the inherent risks, research suggests a more moderate approach can be used successfully.  Interventions aimed at reducing social media use have led to improvement in how teens feel about themselves in just a few weeks.  Notice I said reducing, not eliminating.  As with most things in life, the key to healthy social media use is balance and moderation.  

Limiting screen use specific to social media consumption is critical.  Establishing clear boundaries around how much social media use is allowed is an essential first step.  You might set a ratio of half your screen time on social media and half watching programs or playing video games.  Or, you might set an upper limit of 30 minutes of social media per day.  I would highly encourage you to keep the maximum daily allotment of social media to under 1 hour based on these studies showing the positive effects of minimizing exposure to social media.  Social media limits and screen time limits, in general, encourage children to engage in other activities that contribute to their physical and mental well-being.

These restrictions aren't about limiting freedom but rather providing a safe space for exploration and learning.  They help balance the benefits of social media, like connecting with friends and exploring new ideas, with the potential downsides.  It's about teaching children to use social media as a tool rather than letting it become a crutch or a source of stress.


Introducing Social Media in Stages

Limiting the number of apps your child has access to can ease them into the digital world more gently.  Allowing one or two apps is a good starting point.  Be sure to choose the apps their friends are using.  

In addition, initially allowing your child to view and like other people’s posts but not write comments or create their own posts can help them learn the landscape of online interaction without the pressure of contributing or being scrutinized.  This staged approach allows them to observe the nuances of online communication and understand the impact of words and actions in a digital context while helping to shield them from some of the negative effects of social media use.


Engaging in Ongoing Communication

One of the most effective strategies for navigating social media use is maintaining open lines of communication.  Regularly ask your child about their experiences online, showing genuine interest rather than judgment.  Questions like, "What's something interesting you saw on social media this week?" or "Have you had any uncomfortable interactions online?" can provide insights into their digital world and help you guide them more effectively.


Use these conversations to educate your child about how they can curate their social media feed.  Teach them that the algorithm sends them more content that is similar to what they view and like.  Even if they hover over a post for just a few seconds, the algorithm tracks that behavior.  So, teach your children to only watch and like posts that bring them joy and train their accounts to be positive spaces.  Use examples from your own social media about how you expressed interest in one topic and now see lots of posts in your feed on that same topic.


Beyond the Blog: Screen Time Myths Workshop

More schools are integrating social media literacy into their curriculum, which is great, but there also needs to be instruction and involvement at home.  There have been heated political debates as of late about the role of government in regulating social media apps for kids, but ultimately the greatest responsibility for keeping our kids safe on social media falls on us as parents.

To further empower parents in this digital age, I offer a free workshop titled Screen Time Myths.  This session is designed to debunk common misconceptions about digital media use, providing parents with the facts they need to make informed decisions about their child's online activities.  It's an invaluable resource for anyone looking to understand the real impact of digital media on children's development and well-being.  Get enrolled today at

Take-Home Message

As parents, our role in our children's digital journey is not to shield them from the digital world entirely but to equip them with the knowledge and skills to navigate it responsibly.  By setting clear boundaries, introducing social media in stages, and maintaining open communication, we can help our children reap the benefits of social media while minimizing its risks.  Remember, guiding our children through the digital landscape is a journey we take together—one post, one click, one conversation at a time.

This staged approach to introducing social media falls under the Choices & Checkpoints category of my 5 C’s parenting framework (see Are You An Intentional Parent? to learn more about The 5 C’s).  To view more posts in this category, use the category search menu on the right of your screen.  Thanks for joining me to fill your parenting toolbox with psychology-based tools to feel more confident and capable in your parenting.  Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!


P.S. Remember to join my Screen Time Myths Workshop for essential information about how screen time affects your child and how you can use that information to establish clear and reasonable screen time boundaries for your family.


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