Social media has fast become part of everyday life for many Canadians, but is there a point where it interrupts your real-life relationships?
According to research done on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross, more than 60 per cent of the country’s social media users access their accounts “every day or nearly every day.” It’s available 24/7 on our cell phones, laptops, desktops and tablets, and if you have a family, there is probably more than one user in your household.
So what happens when social media starts interrupting quality family time? When beeps, tweets and likes can be heard around the dinner table, distracting everyone from valuable face-to-face conversations? Every family should consider doing a “health check” of social media use in their house.
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When it’s a problem
You know social media use is rife in your family when
- Technology comes to the dinner table, special events or family gatherings
- Family members prefer to spend time online than with others in the home
- You (or your partner) are constantly checking your social media accounts throughout the day or during important moments and feel “lost” without it
- Moods are changed because someone has checked social media (particularly if it might be the result of cyber bullying or general unhappiness with life, such as jealousy from other people’s posts)
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Social media rules to try
There are many different ways to use and limit social media time within your family.
One important thing to remember is that most social media platforms, such as Facebook, have age restrictions for their users. So if your kids are under 16, they aren’t allowed to sign up to the network in the first place. Consider when you will allow your kids to create their own accounts, and discuss boundaries before they start.
Keep an eye out
The Canadian Paediatric Society offers helpful tips for parents regarding social media via its Caring for Kids website. Among the many tips and explanations, it recommends you “keep computers in common areas where you can watch while your children use them. Be clear about the rules for using the computer, and set limits on the amount of time and how they can be used.”
The doctors also suggest you establish limits for cell and smartphone use, such as times of the day it can be used and when all gadgets must be turned off. It’s so important that parents follow these rules too, especially if it involves one-on-one time with your kids.
The value of unplugging
Another great tip is to “teach them the value of ‘unplugging’ from devices and computers for technology-free time. Reinforce that no email or message is so important that it can’t wait until the morning.” This applies to you and the kids both, as we can all do with remembering that it’s liberating to be detached from the phone or computer and to relish quiet time at home.