Social media: How to protect teens from harm

Social media has connected the world, but some say it may be doing more harm than good, especially for kids. Here's what parents can do to protect their teens on social media.

Social media has connected the world. But some say it may be doing more harm than good, especially for kids.

TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook -- the list goes on and on for ways kids can connect.

According to whistleblower released research, Instagram makes body image issues worse for one in three teenage girls. And among teenagers who reported suicidal thoughts, 6% of users traced the desire to kill themselves back to Instagram.

Facebook’s own research reveals when young women see content involving eating disorders, they become depressed, and it makes them use Instagram even more, continuing the cycle.

A new study published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health suggests social media harms girls more than boys, leading to cyberbullying, sleep problems and less exercise.

So, what can parents do to protect their teens?

First, rather than giving your kid a smartphone and letting them download multiple apps, start by letting your child text only with a best friend or family member.

Once your child proves they’re responsible online, choose one platform and one time period, such as Instagram for 30 minutes a day. You can set that limit via your phone, on Apple look for the family sharing settings, and on Android you can use an app called family link. When the time limit is up, the app on your child’s phone will no longer be accessible.

To prevent unwanted downloads, there is also an ask to buy setting on Apple phones that will send a request to the parent. Also, remove phones and tablets from the bedroom at night.

Most importantly for kids and adults, it’s important to understand that the more we pay attention to our phones, the less we’re investing in the rest of our lives.

Also, help your teen curate their feed. A recent study found that fewer than half the parents regularly discussed content with their teenager. But the experts said it’s helpful to talk about who they are following and how these accounts make them feel.