A lot of parents bring up phone time and social media use as concerns in sessions. We thought we’d take a minute to talk about this because it’s important for teens, but also for you as adults.
Social media and screen time are here to stay and it’s not all bad.
So let’s learn how to work with it rather than fight against it. On a positive note, these skills of knowing and regulating yourself can be applied to so many areas of life.
Let’s use this area for an opportunity to become better.
How much screen time is healthy?
You may not consider any amount of screen time ‘healthy’ but the guidance on the acceptable amount of screen time for an individual varies depending on their age. “The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than 2 and recommends limiting older children’s screen time to no more than one or two hours a day.” (May Clinic Health System | Children and screen time: How much is too much?; Jill Christensen, May 28, 2021)
Some general rules of thumb to follow based on recommendations from various experts in medicine and psychiatry are:
- Birth-18 months: Only use screens for video chatting with family.
- 18-24 months: Educational videos and programs for a few hours a week
- 2 years to 5 years: Can start to include more educational programs, but keep non-educational material down to an hour per weekday and no more than 3 hours on the weekend.
- 6 and up: Some additional time can be allowed but set boundaries during the week based on school activities and time participating in physical activities. Encourage activities that don’t include screens and continue to set limits on non-educational screen time during the week.
Even adults should limit their screen time to a “healthy” amount.
“Experts say adults should limit screen time outside of work to less than two hours per day. Any time beyond that which you would typically spend on screens should instead be spent participating in physical activity.” (Reid Health | How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Adults?). It’s also good that adults set examples for their kids and show them that there are things that are more important in life than being tied to a screen all day.
How do you know when you need a break from social media or screen time?
1. If logging into a social media site, or engaging in some other activity on a screen, is the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night, then it may be time for a break.
This just goes to show that your time online has become more important than it should be because you feel like you need it. More than likely you do not realize how dependent you have become on this activity to function or feel fulfilled.
Taking a break can help you re-center and find out what that important first and last thing you do would be without social media.
2. Another way you can tell you need to take a break from social media is when you begin to compare yourself to others and never feel good enough. Even without social media we will fall victim to the comparison game because we are human; but too much social media can push us to the point that we are never satisfied with who we are or what we have.
“Social media lacks emotional connection, gives people an avenue to be hurtful, and decreases our face-to-face communication skills. It can drive unneeded jealousy where people see other people’s lives as better than their own.” (Better Humans | 7 Warning Signs You Need a Break from Technology and Social Media These things are telling you that you must take a break; Matthew Royse, June 8, 2022)
3. A third sign that may indicate you need to take a break is that you are withdrawing from others. Social media can feel that space that you would normally use to interact and socialize with friends and family. If you find yourself choosing to stay home and scroll then maybe you have become too comfortable with the online world and you need to get out and connect with real people again.
The important piece here is to learn what your internal signals are and help your kids learn what their internal signals are so they know how to self regulate.
What are the benefits of a social media detox?
1. It can help you set priorities – A social media detox can help you become more mindful of how you spend your time each day; especially the amount of time you spend on your devices. Once you identify where you are spending time on things that aren’t important, or you feel shouldn’t be important, then you can redirect your attention to the things that you want to be a priority in your life.
2. It can help you relax – We typically think of time spent on social media as relaxing but it can actually be a stressful task that we feel obligated to participate in; therefore, a detox can help you loosen up and relax.
“For one thing, it could lessen the obligations some people associate with constant communication. Responding to new texts, emails, and Facebook messages nonstop can become stressful, and getting away from that—even for just a day—can feel great.” (Self.com | 5 Potential Mental Health Benefits of Deleting Social Media; Lindsey Lanquist, September 2, 2020)
3. It can help you sleep better – If your nightly routine includes scrolling through your phone right before you turn out the light then more than likely you are not able to get to sleep quickly and/or you are not getting quality rest. In one of our past blogs How Does Screen Time Impact Your Mental Health? we shared information on how screen time late in the evenings has a negative effect on sleep habits. (Read more here).
Since studies have shown that there is a connection between screen time and sleep, it’s only natural that a detox would help you sleep better.
How do you actually set yourself and your family up for success?
The first step is to talk about the plan before you enforce something. Get aligned on your values, with yourself, and your habits as an adult or for you and your partner as parents. Then open up a conversation with your family to reflect about how each person sees themselves being impacted by social media.
If your teen has a minimal response, that’s fine. Just having the question out there is helpful.
The goal is for this to be a conversation first, then, if you feel like you want to implement some changes, you can develop a strategy that works for your family.
It’s important that these changes are talked about in advance, outlined and structured.
Why are you doing it?
Is it a consequence for something?
Is it about being proactive with mental health?
This will be more successful than reacting to something in the moment. A reactive approach leads to setting up an arbitrary “rule” that might be hard to uphold and doesn’t yield a long lasting result. Then you’ll be back wrestling with the issue again before you know.
Supporting healthy screen time habits for your family is important and everyone, parents and kids, should be held accountable to uphold the plan. We talk more about ways to support healthy screen time HERE.
Like it or not, social media has, and will continue to, impact your lives, and your children’s lives. Learning how to use it in a way that is healthy and does not take up all your thoughts and time is essential.
There are positive things that come from social media so eliminating it from your life all together may not be the best choice.
Self-awareness is key, learning to recognize when you need to back off or take a break can help you avoid some of the negative effects associated with social media.