Talk with patients about their social media use. Remind them to limit screen time before bed in order to sleep well and stay healthy.
There have been several reports on the problematic nature of social media, most notably as it relates to adolescents. Recently, stories have circulated about the known negative consequences of popular social media platforms. While these platforms are used by many teenagers, parents and caregivers often feel ill-equipped to help teens navigate them.
It’s important to frame this conversation around what we know biologically about the adolescent brain. The prefrontal cortex, which serves to integrate cognitive function and mediate impulse control, isn’t fully developed until well into one’s twenties. I often see statements insinuating that difficulty setting limits for oneself on social media platforms is due to a teenagers’s personal weakness or lack of self-discipline. In reality, the adolescent brain isn’t yet hardwired to function in that way, and it’s our job as adults to provide more structure to support their growth.
Parents and families have taken a variety of approaches regarding their child’s use of social media. While there is no single approach that makes sense for all families, here are some general principles we can follow to support teenagers while they navigate various platforms:
1. Participate in social media with teens.
This can be educational for caregivers and make it easier to monitor teens’ activity.
2. Model responsible use of social media.
3. Talk with your teen about the media they are consuming, particularly about how information or images can be portrayed inaccurately.
4. Put structures in place to protect sleep.
It’s well known that screen time before bed disrupts sleep and interferes with the ability to fall asleep.
5. Teach them that privacy on the internet doesn’t really exist.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.