Limiting Screen Time Is Not Enough
If you’re like many parents I’ve spoken with about social media, you’re concerned, if not downright terrified, that your daughter is spending way too much time tweeting, favoriting, and posting who knows what. This is understandable given that studies tell us that using social media is not only addictive but leaves many users feeling lonely and depressed.
Given that approximately 17 million teens are using social media every day, we parents can’t afford to just cross our fingers and hope girls figure out best practices. Limiting screen time is not enough. Social media is a big part of their world, and our girls desperately need our help navigating best practices and understanding the values we want them to uphold.
You don’t have to figure this all out on your own. The purpose of this column is to help you over upcoming months.
Here’s a great, easy place to start:
Assuming your daughter uses social media (or might in the future), teach her how to use it for social good. Presumably we want our girls to practice decency and compassion, rather than spreading the snark and gossip we see plastered all over the Internet.
Encourage your daughter to shine the spotlight on others’ accomplishments and make her peers feel included rather than excluded. The next time your daughter comes home and tells you how proud she is that her friend won the statewide essay-contest or rocked her first guitar solo, suggest she post her pride on Instagram.
You can say:
“Wow, that’s so great, and I love that you’re so proud of her. What do you think about congratulating her on Instagram?”
(Obviously pick the social-media site she uses.) Don’t lecture your daughter about the importance of girls and women lifting each other in solidarity; you’re already planting the seed just by having this conversation. If she says, “nah, I don’t think so” that’s okay; don’t push it.
Maybe she’ll think to do it on her own next time. In any case, be sure to add,
“Hey, one thing, if you do decide to post, definitely get her permission ahead of time in case she doesn’t want public attention.”
This quick exchange, which takes just a few minutes, teaches your daughter that social-media can and should be used for positive messages that make girls feel better (not worse) about themselves. You’re showing your girl that you’re clued in to social media, making it far more likely she’ll come to you the next time she’s unsure of how to handle a problem.
You’re also teaching her the importance of respecting other’s privacy and being careful with her words because they can never be taken back once they’re posted publicly.
Give yourself a mental “like” for taking this bold step.
Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.
She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.