Don’t wait for social media bans

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5ways to imrpove digital wellbeing right now

Here are 5 ways you can improve your family’s digital wellbeing right now (without waiting for governments to work out how to ban teens from social media).

The media is suddenly awash with a frenzy to get young people off social media platforms.  Managing device use and helping parents intentionally and intelligently create boundaries with screens is something I’ve been doing for over a decade.

While the politicians try to work out how to deploy an age verification gate on social media sites, here are some practical things you can do right now to create more digital wellbeing in your family.

1/ Signal change is coming and invite them to be part of it.

If you want to create behaviour change effectively, you need to collaborate. Talk to your kids about what’s working and not working when it comes to technology habits and the changes you desire. Communication is key in most family decisions and getting them on board and involved can improve the success of implementing a new plan. Of course, you as a parent hold veto powers on what happens in your home and with your devices, so if you decide to rescind access to social media or dramatically shift the norms in your home, you’ll need to shepherd this change in.

2/ Explain the brain to empower their mental health.

When we help young people understand their neurobiology and how this interacts with digital media content, they can feel more empowered to make change.  By understanding the nature of their developing brains, what’s happening when they consume huge volumes of digital junk food (from allergens in mis/dis/mal information and AI generated ultra-processed food), how screen use is displacing sleep and exercise (and why these are ultimate wellbeing tools) – we help them make better longer term choices about their lives.

3/ Dial down the drama.

Your anxiety (and the media’s) is contagious and doesn’t help us take meaningful and sustainable action. That’s not to say ‘she’ll be right’, it’s about modelling positive coping strategies and demonstrating the ability to step out of ‘freak out’ mode and into the ‘fact-up’ action zone. Young people pick up on parental anxiety and that plays out in a few different ways – they can take on your anxious habits or get curious about what’s behind your worry and go sneaking into digital spaces without your guidance (which increases risk).

4/ Hold steady on boundaries.

I’d argue our collective side-stepping the 13 years+ terms of service on most social media platforms is how we got here. Even though that limit is about data collection not developmental readiness if we normalised delaying social until 13 that would be an epic start. Being able to (collaboratively) set and maintain relevant and appropriate boundaries is your job, please do it! See point 1 for more.

5/ Walk the damn talk.

Honestly reflection on your own habits right now and demonstrate your own willingness to improve your relationship with your phone, email and other online activities.  Role-modelling plays a huge role in the standards and expectations around many of our habits: from healthy eating, how we treat others, our mindset and effort and of course our tech-habits. Consider how you can make a change alongside your kids.

There’s plenty of other ways you can make positive change to you/your family’s habits right now, without waiting for age verification gates to be developed, or social media summits to be held.

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