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How Much Is Too Much?

Mallory Dimler, PhD

Morphmom Contributor and Licensed Clinical Psychologist with specialties in anxiety disorders, perinatal mental health, eating disorders, and body image.

This piece is only for informational/educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment.

We’ve asked that question a lot over the years about social media and smartphones and, occasionally end up battling our teens about it. Truthfully, the fight to limit their use hasn’t felt great and it hasn’t been super-productive either. So we took our question to Morphmom contributor and Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Mallory Dimler. Here's her practical answer and helpful advice:

It’s important for parents to take a step back and consider if they are trying to control their teen’s use beyond what is realistic. Teens have their workarounds and will find them. However, what parents can do is be curious and have conversations with them about who they follow, what they are interested in, and what kind of information they are consuming. This can set the stage to begin teaching critical thinking skills, such as questioning influencers’ financial motives for promoting certain products or understanding how social media algorithms work.

These conversations can also reinforce the positive effects of social media use, as it gives you an opportunity to connect with your teen about their interests.R emember, this is a time when it is developmentally appropriate for your teen to be separating themselves from you. Remain open, and curious, and try not to insert your own judgments because it will likely lead to a shutdown in conversation and missed opportunity for connection.

If there is a time to be more strict about social media use, it is bedtime. You can help your teen practice better sleep hygiene by keeping their phones charging outside their rooms at night. Encourage them to read, take a shower, or any other activity they find soothing.

Lastly, pay attention to the times your teen may be relying on social media to cope with difficult feelings. If they came home upset and immediately get lost in scrolling, ask them how they’re feeling, and provide other options for ways to cope. Encourage them to talk to you or someone else they trust, go for a walk, or journal. It is common for teens to cope with their feelings through distraction and numbing, and they will benefit from learning a variety of coping skills.

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