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Healthy You

The New Social Life: Advice for Parents with Teens Online

August 24, 2017 12:00 PM with Dr. Brenda Hernandez

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In the digital age, new social platforms, apps and ways to communicate are becoming accessible to the younger generation, and it’s not always easy for parents to keep track of what their kids are doing online. Is it easier to have a discussion? Is it too much to ask your teen to show you their accounts and passwords? Dr. Brenda Hernandez, Child and Adolescent Psychologist at NorthShore, realizes this struggle for many parents, and is offering some key advice during an online chat. Send her your questions about social media and teens, managing their screen time and how to teach them about current issues including privacy and cyberbullying.

Kathryn (Moderator) - 12:01 PM:
Our chat on teens and social media is now open. You can submit questions at any time during our chat.

Brenda Hernandez ((NorthShore)) - 12:02 PM:
Hello everyone. I'm excited to be here and answer your questions. Let's chat

  Veronica (Evanston, IL) - 12:02 PM:
Is it wrong for me to ask for passwords for my children’s’ social media accounts (high school age)?

Brenda Hernandez (NorthShore) - 12:05 PM:
Hi, you can ask, but if your child does not want to share it I would not press the issue. It is important for your child to have some privacy and not think you are "lurking". Having said that, there are other ways to make sure your child is being safe online. Having open communication about what is and what is not acceptable is key.

  Patricia (Evanston, IL) - 12:07 PM:
Are there recommended limits for the amount of time kids should be spending on smart phones?

Brenda Hernandez (NorthShore) - 12:11 PM:
There are some guidelines (e.g., no more than 1 hour per day for younger kids). However, the amount of time you want them to spend online should be decided by you. It is important to consider whether the amount of time is interfearing with adequate sleep, physical activities, homework, chores, etc. Also there should be designated "screen free" time, such as the dinner table, while driving, etc.

  Mac (Arlington Heights, IL) - 12:12 PM:
I notice that my daughter has been increasingly stressed out due to arguments she’s had on social media (Facebook) – any tips for advising her?

Brenda Hernandez (NorthShore) - 12:19 PM:
Social media can become a source of stress and even cause a phenomenon called "facebook depression". Cyberbullying can also become a problem. It is important for you to teach your child resiliency skills such as problem solving and enhance their self-esteem via other activities to ensure they have the skills to cope with social problems in person. Advise your child the same way you would with offline social problems. Communication with your child about online interactions is key.

  Cara (Evanston, IL) - 12:20 PM:
I'm concerned about the amount of time my teen daughter is on her phone, not the content. What concerns can we bring up with teens about the their time on iPhones that won't elicit eye-rolling from them?

Brenda Hernandez (NorthShore) - 12:25 PM:
The amount of time pre/teens and teens spend online should be determined by whether this time is interfering with other activities. Talk to them about the importance of having a well rounded life that includes other activites such as spending time with family and friends (face to face), physical activities, etc. Social media should be only one aspect of her life, not her entire life.

  Lisa (Chicago, IL) - 12:25 PM:
I’m worried about my kids stumbling on graphic content online (since a lot of videos auto play now) – if they come across something distressing, how might I address this?

Brenda Hernandez (NorthShore) - 12:32 PM:
Inappropriate content is one of the main risks associated with being online. The answer to this question really depends on the age of your child, maturity level, etc. Consider that even if the subject matter is difficult to address or you don't want to, it is important that you still talk about it. Ask your kids what they already know about what they saw and answer whatever questions they may have in a developmentally appropraite way. Having open communication about healthy sexuality, violence, etc is imporant and this may be the perfect opportunity to start a discussion.

  Paul (IL) - 12:33 PM:
This might be a weird question – can I use social media to teach my kids life skills (how to treat others, what to do if they’re bullied)?

Brenda Hernandez (NorthShore) - 12:40 PM:
Not a weird question at all! And yes, absolutely. There are many benefits to the use of the internet and social media and finding information about every subject is one of them. Also, social media is a perfect way to begin many conversations about, healthy frienships, empathy, kindness, responsibility, relationships, resilience, etc.

  Mary (Northbrook, IL) - 12:43 PM:
I feel like Instagram is making my 16 year old so self-conscious. She spends a lot more time than she used to making sure she has the right outfit, makeup, etc, just for a normal day. Is this normal? I’m not sure how to start a conversation about it.

  Tom (Wilmette, IL) - 12:54 PM:
I have noticed it’s becoming more common for students to follow/friend their teachers – does this seem appropriate for teens? Is there anything in particular I can discuss with my kids to make sure they’re behaving correctly?

Brenda Hernandez (NorthShore) - 12:57 PM:
It is very easy for certain boundaries to be blurred, particularly online. That is why I don't recommend that teachers "friend" students. The reasons for wanting to "friend" a student may be acceptable (e.g, communication about school assignemnts, etc). But there are other platforms that are more appropriate for these purposes.

  Judy (Evanston, IL) - 12:58 PM:
My daughter is not yet 13 – I saw that she lied about her age to register an account on Instagram. How might I address this with her? I don’t want to make it seem like I’m spying or calling her a liar.

Brenda Hernandez (NorthShore) - 1:07 PM:
The fact of the matter is that she misrepresented herself and was dishonest. You should approach this in the way you would approach any other instance of lying. Discuss some of reasons there may be for the minimal age requirement, such as potential inappropriate content, adult predators, etc. In terms of the "spying" aspect of it, you could tell her that you want to make sure she is being a safe user of social media and your intention is not to invade her privacy. Most importantly, you need to think about whether you can in fact trust that she is mature enough to be in these platforms. Think about how you found out this information and what it might tell you about your trust in her.

Kathryn (Moderator) - 1:08 PM:
This will be the end of our chat. Thank you for your questions. For more information about talking to your teens about social media, or to schedule an appointment with a specialist like Dr. Hernandez, you can contact the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
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