Tips to Safeguard Your Child’s Mental Health in the Era of Social Media

parents educate child about social media use

Social media may be an excellent resource for networking, getting information, and talking with others. But there’s reason for concern—it may become obsessive and cause problems to the development of the children brain. 


  • 90% of teens ages 13-17 have used social media
  • 51% said they use social media site at least once a day
  • Teens spend over 9 hours a day on the internet, excluding homework time

Age Limits Matter

A law known as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which was implemented in 2000—long before today’s adolescents were born—technically already forbids children under the age of thirteen from browsing websites that advertise to them without their parents’ permission.

The goal was to protect kids’ online privacy with clear rules and parental consent. Social media firms ban kids under 13, but kids still sign up, with or without parents’ permission.

However, concerns about children using the internet are no longer limited to online privacy. Bullying, harassment, the possibility of eating disorders, thoughts of suicide, or worse, are all present.

Parents, educators, and tech experts have long advocated delaying the gift of smartphones and social media access to children until they are older. One such initiative is the “Wait Until 8th” pledge, which asks parents to promise not to give their children a smartphone until the eighth grade, or around the age of 13 or 14. However, neither the government nor social media platforms have taken any significant action to raise the age restriction.

The Sound Alarm On Kid’s Mental Health

a teen having mental health problems as bad effect of social media

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has released advice highlighting the possible negative impacts social media may have on children’s mental health.“We’re in the middle of a youth mental health crisis, and I’m concerned that social media is contributing to the harm that kids are experiencing,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN. “For too long, we have placed the entire burden of managing social media on the shoulders of parents and kids, despite the fact that these platforms are designed by some of the most talented engineers and designers in the world to maximize the amount of time that our kids spend on them,” he said. “So that is not a fair fight. It’s time for us to have the backs of parents and kids.”

Teens who use social media for more than three hours a day are twice as likely to have mental health problems, including anxiety and sadness, according to research included in the report. The study also mentions the following other possible problems:

  • Exposure to offensive or dangerous content (violence, drugs, sex, etc.)
  • Contact with harmful individuals
  • Cyberbullying as a suicide and depression risk factor
  • Excessive sharing of personal data
  • Exposure to an abundance of commercials
  • Privacy issues, such as the gathering of user data regarding teenagers
  • Theft of identity or hacking
  • Interference with family activities, homework, exercise, or sleep

This report’s findings are consistent with what UnitedHealthcare doctors frequently observe, which includes a rise in damaging comparisons, a decline in face-to-face communication, feelings of isolation, and an increase in mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. According to Dr. Donald Tavakoli, national medical director for mental health at UnitedHealthcare, children’s overall development is impacted by the amount of time they spend online.


The Surgeon General’s recommendation is released at a time when there is still a crisis in juvenile mental health. Roughly 20% of children with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders receive treatment from a mental health professional, despite the fact that 1 in 6 children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) have such disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What Should Parents Do?

Parents may find these findings concerning, and dealing with the problems associated with social media use may seem daunting. These pointers might lessen possible harm by educating you and your child about social media use:

Speaking is essential

Starting early is key, even before children go online. Parents can engage in discussions about social media by going through their feeds with their children. This provides an opportunity to have open conversations about what they might encounter online.

Regularly have judgment-free, frank discussions with your child regarding their online behavior on social media. Inquire about their social media habits and ask them hypothetical questions about how they might react in various situations. Make sure kids are aware of the warning signals of cyberbullying and the permanence of internet posts. 

For older kids, curiosity is the approach. Instead of asking direct questions about their activities, inquire about what their friends are doing or mention trends. This indirect approach might reveal more about their online experiences. Avoid saying things like, “Turn that thing off!” advises Jean Rogers, the director of the group Fairplay’s Screen Time Action Network. That’s impolite, Rogers remarked. “It doesn’t acknowledge that inside that device, they have a whole world and a whole life.” Rogers advises instead of questioning people about their phone usage and seeing what information they are prepared to offer.

Understand social media and monitor it

Understanding a little bit about the newest social media applications might assist parents in setting better guidelines and restrictions for their children. Children may have attention-seeking sensitivity and a lack of self-control as a result of the significant changes in their brain development, particularly in the early stages of adolescence. Social media platforms that encourage “likes” and binge scrolling might be problematic for growing brains. Limit improper information and chat features, particularly when interacting with strangers.

Setting boundaries for phones

To control how much time your kids spend on their phones, many parents find success by taking the phones away overnight. This helps limit their scrolling and gives them a break from the screen. Sometimes, kids might try to sneak the phone back, but taking it away usually works. According to Rogers, it’s like giving kids a reason not to be on their phones at night that they can share with their friends—they can just say it’s because their parents have the phones. 

Youngsters frequently pick up on your habits and actions, so be careful how much time you spend on social media and consider what you post. Explain to your child what you’re doing when you have your phone, so they know you’re not just mindlessly scrolling through apps like Instagram. You can say you’re checking work email, looking up a dinner recipe, or paying a bill. This helps them understand that you’re not using the phone just for fun. Make it clear when you plan to put the phone down.

To control how much time your kids spend on their phones, many parents find success by taking the phones away overnight. This helps limit their scrolling and gives them a break from the screen. Sometimes, kids might try to sneak the phone back, but taking it away usually works.

Establish tech-free areas

Limiting technology use for at least an hour before bed and during the night can be beneficial. According to studies, using screens for two or more hours in the evening significantly reduces the melatonin surge that is necessary for falling asleep. Don’t use electronics during meals, and promote face-to-face interaction. Encourage kids to develop their social skills and make real-world friendships.

Keeping your child’s mind healthy in the online world means staying involved. As a parent, stay aware and be a helper in your child’s online adventure, sorting out problems early on. Let’s build a safe online space that cares for them and helps them make good choices in the changing digital world.


AACAP, “Social Media and Teens”, 2018. Accessed October 26, 2023

CDC, “Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health”, 2023. Accessed October 26, 2023