Pediatric HealthSource: Helping Children Navigate Social Media

Kids can learn to safely engage online, with some advice and coaching from parents.

Mary Fristad, Ph.D., ABPP
Parents can help their child use social media safely and effectively.

Q: As a parent, what do I need to know to help my child use social media safely and effectively?

A: Social media can help you connect with friends, gather information and create unique content. There can also be negative consequences to using social media, including lowered self-esteem, exposure to inaccurate information and less face-to-face interaction. Social media can be used safely and effectively. A good start for parents is to model proper social media usage. It is also important to know with whom your child is interacting, the content they are consuming, and how their time spent online is making them feel.

Like adults, kids who use social media are constantly bombarded with information and can become overwhelmed by the “fear of missing out.” When a child sees a post that makes them feel like they’ve been excluded, they may become upset or question their social status. It is important to remind your child that not everything they interact with online is real. Parents should ask children how they feel when engaging on social media: Self-reflection is an important tool.

It’s impossible to weed out every bit of inaccurate information that children may come across. What is important is helping kids navigate those situations. Teach them to ask questions, be curious and use social media as a platform for learning. In the future, when they come across information that seems inaccurate, they will be equipped to seek out legitimate information.

Always consult your child’s pediatrician concerning your child’s health.

For more pediatric health news parents can use, visit our blog: 700childrens.nationwidechildrens.org.

Mary Fristad, Ph.D., ABPP, is a clinical child and adolescent psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

This Pediatric HealthSource column is from the Spring 2022 issue of Columbus Parent.

Mary Fristad, M.D., ABPP, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Steps to Success

Encourage healthy social media usage with these tips:

  • Limit screen time. Help your child find activities they enjoy, like going on a walk, reading, playing sports or creating artwork.
  • Model fact-checking. When you find information that seems questionable, make it a teachable moment; find a reliable, trusted source that helps to verify (or debunk) the information. Encourage your child to do the same if they ever have questions about something they interact with online.
  • Empower your child to discuss their feelings. Things your child encounters on social media can have a positive or negative impact on their feelings and behaviors. Having regular conversations about the information they find online can be beneficial to everyone.