The role parenting can play in how social media impacts teenagers

A closer look at the issues social media can cause for teenagers and how parents can impact it
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 12:03 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina)- New research shows four in 10 high schoolers are experiencing sadness and hopelessness. Sadly, all the signs point to those numbers increasing. According to experts, social media and screen time play a significant role in kids’ mental health.

“That’s why it’s made, to keep you addicted and staying on the app, said Greenville County School District Information Security Specialist Rick Floyd. “That’s why it’s made to get more usage out of it.”

Floyd, who previously worked for the Greenville Police Department Internet crimes unit, said kids feed that addiction many times without their parents knowing.

“Probably the longest time they’re without a cell phone is when they’re at school,” Floyd said. “Other times, from when they get home until the next morning they have access to it. So how much time are they spending on it?”

Pew Research says 60 percent of parents polled in 2020 admitted their child engaged with a smartphone under five years old. While most exposure could be from watching movies or shows, the early exposure concerns Floyd.

“One click away, they can find out anything they want,” he said.

Lynn Hooper agrees.

“One of the things I tell my parents is, be lovingly suspicious all the time,” said Hooper, the Parenting Coordinator with Just Say Something, a non-profit in Greenville.

“They let these kids just stay on these screens all the time, and they don’t realize what’s happening and what these kids are getting into,” said Hooper, who leads a six-week program called Take Back Control. The program is offered free of charge thanks to a recent grant from the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.

Some of the tips Hooper offers to parents include:

-Take phones away when you sit down and eat a meal.

-Monitor your child’s phone.

-Know what apps your child is using.

-Limit the time your child is on their phone once they’re home from school.

-Remove phones from your child’s bedroom at night and charge phones in your room.

Data reveals too much screen time may lead to lower grades, lack of sleep, and poor self-image, including risk for exposure to sexual content, substance use and predators.

“You see every day where children are running away or missing or human trafficking, and a lot of it is because of these cell phones,” said Floyd.

So what can be done?

“I think, as a parent and a community, we need to get the word out as much as possible. We can’t ignore it. It’s not going to go away. Kids are going to make mistakes. And we’re giving them devices expecting them to make the right choices, and then you get mad at them for making the bad choices, but they’re going to,” added Floyd.

Floyd facilitates the discussion for both kids and parents. He hosts presentations throughout the school district and churches to start the conversation. Teachers like Billie Joe Coleman welcome Floyd’s expertise into the classroom.

“I’ve talked to these students, and I’ve talked to my own children about making sure that they stay safe on the internet. To make sure they know that what they put out there is always going to come back to them,” said Mrs. Coleman. She teaches 5th grade at Bethel Elementary School in Simpsonville.

Floyd and Hooper believe it comes down to being a present parent and showing you care and accept your child.

“If you see it say something, you can be saving yourself or someone else,” said Floyd.

There are many ways to monitor your child’s phone activity. Gab, Bark and Disney Circle are a few options suggested by Floyd.