How parents can help their children navigate social media and their emotions

From Instagram, to Snapchat, Tik Tok and Facebook, social media is a part of almost everyone’s life and that includes kids as young as 4th grade.
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 4:12 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 90% of teens ages 13 to 17 have some form of social media.

From Instagram, to Snapchat, Tik Tok and Facebook, social media is a part of almost everyone’s life and that includes kids as young as 4th grade.

“Social media can impact all of us in a variety of ways, and certainly I would say one of the ways it impacts all of us, kids and adults alike, is we tend to compare our worst day to everybody else’s highlight reel,” said Heather Leishman, a counselor at South Hills Middle School in Twin Falls.

When kids are young, they don’t have the coping mechanisms to handle and process what they are seeing on social media.

“Really hope and try to educate kids and families to try to limit or keep kids off of that social media until that later age when they have those skills to process and understand social media,” said Brook Heath, a clinical supervisor with the behavioral health department.

Brook Heath from the Department of Health and Welfare says the goal is to wait until 8th grade to allow your children on social media, but even then, parents and families need to have discussions about social media and monitor it regularly.

But Heather Leishman at South Hills Middle Schools says almost every child at her school is on social media in some form or another, so they work to try to help kids understand that what you are seeing on social media isn’t always the reality, and help them identify their sources of strength.

“The whole premise of sources of strength is that we as human beings have eight specific area in while we have strengths, and we work really hard to help our children and our staff as well identify who and what their strengths are,” said Leishman.

Over at Pillar Falls Elementary School, counselor Jennifer Shaw says social media isn’t their main concern, but screen time as a whole is.

“It affects them in their imagination, they aren’t using their imagination as much as they used to, also because of all the impact they get from online activity, and it’s immediate gratification, students then when they come to school and they try their work they don’t get that immediate gratification, there is the lack of effort and lack of care in their school work,” said Shaw.

So, what can be done? One message remains at the forefront of Heath, Leishman, and Shaw, talk to your children, and be someone they can come to no matter what the situation.

“One of the biggest things is to have honest and open conversations with them,” said Heath.

“Parents can spend time with them in person, interacting with them and helping them learn their social skills and things like that,” said Shaw.

“Just remain open to their children, have that good open relationship with their children so they know they can come to them,” said Leishman.