Tips for helping your children use social media mindfully

Child and Adolescent Health
Behavioral Health
Multi-generational family having dinner.

It's becoming increasingly important to help our children understand the value of practicing mindfulness. With so many digital distractions and constant stimuli, children are exposed to information overload. This can lead to distractions, anxiety and an inability to focus.

"Mindfulness can help children develop skills to better adapt to these pressures and fight off the negative impacts of the busy world around us," says Charles A. Wisniewski, DO, a psychiatrist at Mirmont Outpatient Center in Broomall and Exton, part of Main Line Health.

Let's explore some practical tips to help children cultivate mindfulness and develop deeper emotional intelligence, so you can help them navigate their daily lives in a more meaningful and fulfilling way.

Encourage your children to take breaks from their phone

It might feel like an impossible task, but if you think outside the box when it comes to ways to keep your kids entertained, you may be surprised that they lead to everyone having fun together.

"Create your own games using things you have in your home, and make your own rules," says Dr. Wisniewski. "Get your kids in on making the rules, too."

You can also encourage your children to set aside some time for journaling or a mindfulness/meditation practice instead of mindlessly scrolling social media or texting friends. While meditation may not come easily to your child, mindfulness can look like eliminating screen time during meals and before sleep.

"Encourage them to ask themselves, 'Why am I using this app right now?' Maybe they're feeling particularly vulnerable, angry or shamed," says Dr. Wisniewski. "Identifying any root feelings and journaling about them or talking them through with you is a much healthier practice than keeping it all bottled up."

It's a great idea to implement no-phone family time. Whether it's placing phones in another room during dinner or on a set night each week to watch a movie, doing this will help you and your children be fully present.

"When you have your phone on you, it's harder to devote 100% of your time and attention to another person—especially for kids," says Dr. Wisniewski. "Family time without phones will help strengthen the parent-child bond, which will make it easier to discuss limits when it is time to talk about regulating technology use."

Take short-term breaks from social media

This goes for both you and your children: take a break from your social media accounts and see how you feel. You can really set an example for your children by modeling healthy use of technology.

"Practicing self-control is more about building good habits than about being good at the effortful inhibition of short-term temptations," says Dr. Wisniewski.

Abstaining from the behavior might facilitate self-awareness and insight into you and your children's relationship with social media, including how it may have been causing problems. Cutting out social media for a period of time can lead to positive behavioral changes, like increased engagement in other activities.

Choose healthy settings for your social apps

By turning off push notifications, you'll immediately become more mindful of your social media use. You'll start choosing when to log on rather than logging on because you're seeing a notification bubble.

You can change your settings at any time within any app. You can also block anything you don't want your children to see through parental settings.

"While setting these limits for yourself and your children can help everyone have a better experience on social media, you'll want to make sure you don't invade their privacy. Instead, the goal should be to develop trust with your children," says Dr. Wisniewski.

Help your child regulate their social media rather than placing regulations on them. Develop a plan together that will allow them enough time on their phone, but also balance all the responsibilities and activities in their day to day.

"If it's all too overwhelming for you and your child, you can always reach out to a professional for help if you or your children are finding it difficult to cope with the current stressors," says Dr. Wisniewski.

Next steps:

Make an appointment with Charles A. Wisniewski, DO
Learn more about behavioral health care at Main Line Health
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