Tips for parents to monitor children’s online activities, break social media addiction in adolescents

Updated on Sep 08, 2022 08:16 AM IST

Social media is aggravating suicidal tendencies in adolescents. Here are tips for parents to understand the symptoms of social media addiction and monitor children’s online activities

Tips for parents to monitor children’s online activities, break social media addiction in adolescents(Artem Podrez)
Tips for parents to monitor children’s online activities, break social media addiction in adolescents(Artem Podrez)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

With suicide being the second leading cause of death in the young population (10-24 years), influence of social media and Internet is immense and health experts believe digital interventions among teenage kids and young adults are significantly affecting their mental health and well-being, making them more susceptible to self-harm, suicidal ideation and later suicide attempts. A study published in 2015 highlighted that teens who reported using social media sites more than 2 hours a day are much more likely to report poor mental health outcomes where the suicidal thoughts and excessive social media usage results in low self-esteem and poor body image and are quite a frequent behaviour.

Understanding the symptoms of social media addiction

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Founder and Senior Psychiatrist at Manasthali, explained, “An addiction is identified from mild to severe using 11 criteria of addiction outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-5.” She pointed out that a child can be termed as a social media addict if he/she meets two or fewer below-mentioned criteria:

1. More social media usage than wished for

2. Having frequent urge or desire of checking social networking sites

3. Usage of social media started conflicts in their immediate relationships with others

4. Hampering his/her ability to function, work, or complete tasks

5. Focusing more on social media and cutting back on activities which they previously used to enjoy

6. Experiencing physical or emotional discomfort when you stop or cut back

7. Stopping or cutting back on social media making them irritable

8. Negative impacts to your physical or mental health

9. Continued use of social media despite problems, consequences, or impairments

10. Using in situations that are risky or hazardous (i.e. while driving or working) reduced real-world social interaction

11. Needing more time/likes/follows to get the same amount of pleasure or enjoyment from social media

The quintessential role of parents

Parents play an important role in the de-addiction regime of social media in their kids. Though it’s a tough job, if done in a friendly way then it can strengthen a parent and child bond.

Dr Jyoti Kapoor advised, “They need to build a positive and family environment at their home so that the child doesn’t get the urge of the virtual world. Parents should also take part in their social media usage by learning about the programs/apps, their child is using. Ask the child to teach you about the nuances of these platforms. Parents need to show interest in such activities and ask questions.”

In order to monitor your children’s online activities, Dr Jyoti Kapoor suggested, “Ensure that the tablets and computers are placed in common areas where you can watch while your child uses them. Keep a tab on your child’s online accounts. It might irk them initially but make them understand that monitoring their online activity would help keep them to stay protected from cyber bullying but be attentive as some children or teens may create a fake second account for their parents to follow. You can ask them in a friendly gesture about the people they are friends with online. Showing genuine interest will help them feel comfortable talking about it. Explain that it’s easy for someone on the Internet to pretend to be someone they’re not.”

She added, “Talk about the importance of keeping online friendships in the online world. Make it clear that if your child wants to meet an online friend in person, it must be in a public place and with a trusted adult. Talk in detail about what’s okay and safe to post online and what isn’t. People do not always have control over what others post about them. Explain how information and photos found on the internet can resurface years later. Explain how auto-correct can sometimes result in misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Some teenagers may use dating websites to find dates or sexual partners. Discuss the importance of having healthy and safe relationships with them.”

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