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Last month I received a call from a parent whose 11-year-old daughter was sending nude pictures of herself through Kik. She was receiving similar pictures from a classmate at school.

Just last week I received a disturbing call from a father in regard to his 10-year-old son who was being bullied online. He wanted to know what to do to protect his son. I shared with him that when students are spending an extended amount of time online, they are increasing the possibilities of getting bullied or becoming a cyberbully. Therefore, parents need to stop or more carefully monitor their children in using social media.

A recent post on Psychology Today focused on “Why Social Media Is Not Smart for Middle School Kids.” I quite agree with author Melanie Hempe, RN, founder of Families Managing Media, that there isn’t a worse time in a child’s life to have access to social media than middle school. Why? Because the mid-brain is reorganizing itself and risk-taking is high and impulse control is low.

Here are just a few reasons why parents should be wary of social media for tweens:

  • Social media was not designed for kids. Their underdeveloped frontal cortex can’t manage the distraction nor the temptations that come with social media use.
  • Social media is a very addictive form of screen entertainment. Much like video game addiction, early use can set up future addiction patterns and habits.
  • Social media easily replaces learning the hard social “work” of dealing face to face with peers, a skill that they will need to practice to be successful in real life.
  • Social media can cause teens to lose connection from their family and view “friends” as their foundation.

What can parents do? Here are some practical ideas.

  • Delay access to social media.
  • Follow your tween’s social media accounts.
  • Create family accounts.
  • Allow social media only on large screens.
  • Keep a sharp eye on how much time they are spending on social media.
  • Plan face-to-face time for your teens with their friends.
  • Spend more real non-tech time with your children.

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