5 Ways to Help Kids Manage Social Media Pressure

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a front-page article titled, Facebook Knows Instagram is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show. The eye-opening piece uncovers some of Facebook’s own internal research, showing the damaging effects Instagram has on teens’ mental health, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and even suicide. The pressures to conform, fit in, be attractive and receive validation are all exacerbated on the photo-sharing platform. The kicker? Facebook (which owns Instagram) knows all of this and isn’t taking any significant steps to fix it.

At START, we are excited and optimistic that the momentum stirred by this exposé will give parents hope that there is mounting pressure for Facebook to respond and make changes to their platforms, and perhaps even halt the rollout of their latest project: Instagram for Kids. We aren’t holding our breath, so the question is, while this plays out, what can you do to seize this opportunity to be a mentor to your child in the digital world? How do we let our kids thrive but not fall victim to the pressures of social media? We don’t have all the answers, but we can provide these five simple tips for mentoring and guiding your children through the pressures and altered reality of Instagram.

  1. START A CONVERSATION. Read the WSJ article with your child or summarize it for them. Then, get curious. How do they feel about it? Do they agree? This is the perfect opportunity to connect with your child about the ways they are experiencing social media pressure. How has it impacted their mental health?

  2. WATCH THE SOCIAL DILEMMA. Viewing this Netflix documentary with your child will help you understand the “secret sauce” Facebook and Instagram use to get our attention and keep us addicted.

  3. GET VULNERABLE. Pull up your Instagram account and find a post that damaged your own mental health. Be brave and share how it impacted you. By letting them know they’re not alone in experiencing the pressures of social media, you will build empathy, trust and connection.

  4. TEST DRIVE BEFORE GIVING THEM THE WHEEL. Take a driver’s ed approach to social media. Before letting them download any apps, test drive them for yourself or ask others to give insight. Once they do download an app, sit beside them (as you would when they learn to drive) to ensure they navigate it safely.

  5. DOWNLOAD OUR SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYBOOK. This free workbook is filled with conversation starters and tools for connecting with your child about social media.

Remember, we are the first generation of parents dealing with social media’s pressure on children. There is no right way to do this. And sometimes, the best decisions are made by speaking with others in similar situations. Consider gathering a group of parents and hosting a Screen Sanity Group Study. Our just-released handbook covers some of the most pressing topics for parents raising kids in a digital world, including screen time and social media. You’ll find several video-guided sessions that are meant to spark face-to-face conversation with others in a casual setting. Our goal is to bring parents together to face these difficult topics together.