“Most middle and high school girls need their parents to limit social media use,” writes Rachel Simmons, author of the new, revised Odd Girl Out. “They are not able to do it on their own. Many girls are addicted to social media because, simply put, they are addicted to their relationships.” I’m not sure I agree with her second sentence, stated so categorically (because we know from social media research that some teens have sophisticated strategies for managing their social networking), but I definitely agree with Rachel that it’s not Web sites, technology, nor devices that young people seem addicted to. It’s relationships, the school social scene, and more specifically they’re addicted to knowing what’s going on – who’s posting what about who, especially themselves. This is more (understandable) self-defense than the narcissism this generation of teens is too often accused of. The other thing I agree with is that young people are looking for regulatory support and backup from their parents in the area of social media.
So how do we provide that? Rachel has some great strategies in her book and offers some of them here, including establishing a park-and-charge place for cellphones in the house (not your children’s bedrooms!), disallowing cellphones and/or laptops/notebooks under pillows or within reaching distance during sleeping hours, and I’ll add one: turning off phones during homework time and having a rule that says, “You can spend some time in Facebook (or whatever the preferred digital social tool is) for __ minutes before you start your homework or in between subjects, but not while you’re trying to concentrate, absorb, read, study, etc.” I also think it’s usually fine for them to check in with their friends before bed, too, but not after the lights are out. In her blog post, Rachel also offers some advice on how to make all the above work – do check it out.