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7 healthy habits for social media use for you and your teen

| Healthy You | Wellness

Teenage boy looking at phone.

Is social media really that bad or do you just need healthy boundaries?

Psst … if you’re reading this then you may have clicked on it from a social media site. Social media use can get a bad rap. But is it really that bad or do you just need to set healthy boundaries? 

If you’re a parent of a teenager, it may seem like they’re glued to their phones. They’re probably getting pinged left and right about the latest TikTok dance trend, Snapchat filter or funny Instagram Reel. “For parents, remember that our children are looking to us as role models demonstrating healthy behaviors, so these social media tips are good for the whole family,” says Serena Black, MD, pediatric hospitalist at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon. Try these tips for using social media and news in a healthy way.

1. Have a purpose

Maybe you or your teen want to use social media to share creative things you’re working on. If so, use it only for that. Log off after you've shared your work. 

When it comes to news, it's important to know what's going on in the world. But do you need to keep an eye on the headlines all day? Maybe a check-in once a day is enough. “Like all things, healthy social media use requires balance and moderation,” Dr. Black says.

2. Understand your feelings 

Does seeing what friends are sharing make you happy? Or does it make you feel down? Pay attention to how you feel the next time you’re on social media, then decide if you want to make some changes.

3. Avoid comparisons

People filter what they share on social media in order to tell a specific story about their life. Usually, that story is a shiny one. For example, you might see tons of pictures of the great things your friend saw and did on a weekend road trip. But you’re not likely to see pictures of the three times she got carsick during the drive. Even if what you’re seeing is true, remember that it’s never the whole story.

4. Use tools to help you manage 

Turn off notifications on your phone. That way you can find the information you want when you're ready for it, instead of letting it find you. Parents may also want to set up filters on their kid’s phones to limit what they can access and set boundaries on screen time.

If you want to follow current events, sign up for “news roundup” emails. They include only the top headlines or summaries of the day’s events.

Unfollow or hide feeds that stress you out. And don’t feel bad about doing it. You can still be informed without absorbing all the info that comes your way.

5. Follow the feel-good stuff

Let's face it, the news can feel heavy. Try to find balance by focusing on things that make you happy. Check out social media accounts that focus on your interests or on things that make you laugh. For example, you could follow some accounts that only post videos of baby animals being adorable. If that's not your thing, no problem. Search for something that is and see what comes up. Want to share tips and hacks with other gamers? There’s a community out there for you.

6. Get in on a trend

“If used in the right ways social media can be a powerful tool to get kids interested and engaged in being challenged and being active,” says Dr. Black. For example, you could get your family to try one of the dance routines that are all over TikTok and Instagram. It’s a great way to bond and get exercise at the same time.

7. Set a time to step away

Make time to disconnect. Close your apps and turn off the TV. Read a book, get outside, draw, call a friend. It doesn't matter what you choose to do. Just make sure it's something that feels supportive and worth your time.

portrait of Serena S. Black MD

Serena S. Black MD

Dr. Serena Black joined PeaceHealth Medical Group in 2011 after completing her residency at Children's Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, CA where she was also chief resident. Prior to medical school, Dr. Black lived in Philadelphia working in clinic research. It was there that she discovered how much she enjoyed working closely with patients and the desire to work directly with patients is what inspired her to go to medical school. She chose pediatric medicine because she believes the foundation of great pediatric care is the important relationships a provider must foster with patients and their families. When Dr. Black is not caring for patients in the clinic, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their young daughter. Traveling, reading and cooking are all passions for Dr. Black. She also likes to spend time outdoors and is excited about all the beautiful places Lane County offers for hiking and other outdoor pursuits.