Teens and Social Media: Parent Guide to Preventing and Protecting Your Kids From Unhealthy Social Media Use

In my last two posts, we discussed the prevalence of social media use amongst today’s teens and how parents can recognize the warning signs of excessive or unhealthy use. It’s simply a fact of modern life that teens — and tweens — are using more digital technology, and this trend isn’t likely to diminish anytime soon. Though platforms such as social media and texting offer a number of benefits when used appropriately, some teens may engage in unhealthy use.
From sexting to cyberbullying, online predators to addictive use, here’s a parent guide to help both prevent unhealthy social media use and protect your children when they’re online.
Parental awareness is essential to ensuring that your child’s social media use remains healthy and appropriate. Educate yourself about the different types of social media out there, and especially as to which ones your child is involved with.
The best way to learn about these technologies is first hand; creating your own social media accounts and profiles allows you to thoroughly understand both the platform itself, as well as how it can be used. When you have your own accounts, you can “friend” your child, thus allowing you to monitor their online activity.
Teach your children about the importance of maintaining online privacy. Many teens may not fully understand how important it is to keep personal details such as addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, photos and even personal communications private. Not only can unscrupulous individuals use personal information to commit identity theft, many sexual predators lurk online and take advantage of unsuspecting youth.
Along with keeping personal information private for safety’s sake, help your child understand that once they post something online, whether a photo or written text, it’s almost impossible to “take it back” or control its spread, even if online privacy settings are set to “high.” Compromising pictures or language may be viewed by school administrators, law enforcement officials, college admissions departments, and potential employers. As a general rule, teach kids that they should only post something that they are comfortable with everyone seeing.
Above all, keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your kids about social media use — not just the potential dangers, but the potential benefits, too. A study by the California Adolescent Health Collaborative found that teens whose parents talked to them “a lot” about social media tended to have a greater concern with online privacy and be less likely to:
• Share personal information and photos
• Have a public profile
• Talk to or meet with people they only know online.
In additional to opening the lines of communication, parents can take specific actions to limit unhealthy social media usage. These include:
• Keeping computers in public parts of the home, rather than in kids’ bedrooms
• Requiring that your child “friend” you on any social media sites they use
• Setting time limits for computer and cell phone use
• Checking your child’s phone records and computer history regularly
• Treating social media use or online gaming as a privilege to be earned
• Encouraging your child to engage in other, non-screen-related activities
• Acting as role models of responsible social media use
Every parent wants their child to use social media appropriately and safely, but sometimes making that goal a reality poses a real challenge. That’s where professional help can make the difference. Dr. Steven Lazarus, a teen psychologist in Littleton, can help your family work through these issues together.

Please See Previous Blogs on this topic

Teens and Social Media: What Parents Need to Know Part I

Teens and Social Media: Warning Signs Part 2


What do I do when my child refuses to go to time out?

What do I do when my child refuses to go to time out?

Your child is in trouble and you’re using the time out to get them to calm down. If they refuse their time out, they are basically getting a second offense. You need parenting strategies to help here. What do I do next?

If I were to be speeding in my car and a police car pulls up and puts on its lights, I have two choices. 1) I can pull over and take the consequence for speeding. 2) I can refuse to pull over and try to outrun the car (Very poor choice!) When a kid is sent to time out, they also have a choice. They can go to time out and work their way out of this, or they can try to refuse, creating a much larger consequence. Remember, if you are using 1-2-3 magic, you already gave them 2 chances to not have a time out!

This behavior shows me that your child needs “practice” taking time outs. They are not good at taking them. As a consequence for the refusal and when they are CALM, they can practice taking 3 good time outs. Then tell them, “Good, now you know how to do time outs. I hope the next time your are sent to a time out, you do it this way. Otherwise, we will need to do more practice.”

If they are small enough, you can choose to bring them to their time out or hold them in a “bear hug hold” until they are calm. Don’t continue to engage in a power struggle with them when they are angry, telling them that if they don’t go to a time out, they will get (insert bigger and bigger consequences here). This just will make you more angry and your child will escalate. Instead:

  • Ignore them.
  • Don’t talk to them!
  • Don’t engage in any interaction until they go take their time out.

Again, they did not do a good time out, so when you and they are calm, they will need to work off their choice to refuse the time out. They can practice and get better at making the choice to not have a time out in the first place.

See Time-outs for Children blog for more on how to use time outs effectively with kids, ages 2-12.

Dr. Steven Lazarus is a child psychologist in Littleton, Colorado.

Teens and Social Media: Warning Signs Part 2

In my last post, I explored the prevalence of social media use among teens. A 2011 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that using social media is one of today’s teens most common activities; the statistics may surprise you. The study found that:

  • 22% of teens log on to the favorite social media site more than 10 times a day
  • Over 50% log on to at least one social media site more than once daily
  • 75% of teens who have their own cell phones
  • 54% use cell phones for texting
  • 25% use cell phones for social media

We’ve all read stories in the news about teens who’ve been cyberbullied, sexually exploited and otherwise harmed online, as well as cautionary tales about teens who’ve grown addicted to social media. Given the extent of digital technology use among youth, many parents are asking “How much is too much?” At what point does the social media environment become negative or even unhealthy?

These warning signs can help parents determine if your teen’s social media use is healthy — or veering out of control. Look for:

  • Decreasing grades
  • Withdrawal from face-to-face social activities, skipping dinner, and neglecting homework in favor of social media
  • Texting at inappropriate times, such as dinner or after lights out
  • Fatigue or sleep problems
  • Secret profiles on Facebook or email
  • Texting/ Facebooking people not on the approved list
  • Depression and low self-esteem
  • Weight gain or loss


One of the most common forms of social media misuse, as many as 16% of high school students experience cyberbullying, or bullying that takes place through electronic media such as offensive texts, rumor-spreading emails, embarrassing photos, cruel Facebook posts, or even the creation of fake profiles. Cyberbullying is particularly insidious, because it can take place at anytime, anywhere — and there’s very little your child can do to stop it.

Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to:

  • Avoid going to school
  • Use alcohol and drugs
  • Have poor grades
  • Experience health problems
  • Have low-self esteem
  • Experience depression and anxiety


Though teens addicted to online media may not display physical withdrawal symptoms, the issue does involve dependence on technology in a way that’s unhealthy. If your teen is spending eight or more hours a day on social media or interactive gaming activities, it may be time to seek help. Other warning signs of addiction include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Neglecting school work
  • Suicidal, violent or otherwise inappropriate behavior when social media is withdrawn

In part 3, we’ll discuss what parents can do to prevent and protect against unhealthy social media use.

Dealing with parenting issues such as social media use can be a challenge; professional intervention can make all the difference. If you’re seeking a licensed teen psychologist in Littleton, Colorado, Dr. Steven Lazarus can help your family work through these rough patches together.

Be sure to see part 1:

Teens and Social Media: What parents need to know


Part 3

Teens and Social Media: Parent Guide to Preventing and Protecting Your Kids From Unhealthy Social Media Use


http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Talking-to-Kids- and-Teens-About-Social-Media-and-Sexting.aspx







Rules For Unfair Fighting

There are certain things that we do in arguments that virtually guarantee we have a bad outcome for a fight. Saying or doing these actions are like penalties in football. They stop forward progress. They create anger and hurt feelings and problems do not get resolved. Here are a few areas that you would address in relationship counseling and marriage counseling.




Not being able to take a break

Win/ Lose discussions


Power words: You, Never, Always, (sneaky I feel attack: “I feel like you…”)

Bad timing

Multiple Issues all at once

Counting the number of times that something has happened

Not listening

Never bringing something up again

The silent treatment

Bad timing

Arguing in front of the kids

I’m sure you have more that you could add to the list!!!

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


So using this logic, if we know what does not work, no matter what remains, no matter how improbable that it will work, must be what will work. In other words, we need to create:

List of fair fighting rules.

Treat each other with respect

Don’t make it a personal attack

Use the words: “I” and “we.”

Listen first, then speak,

Stick with one issue

Take a break if you need one

Regroup and try again

Have a way to discuss the issue, and then move toward an acceptable solution

Each person has an opinion about a topic and neither of you are right or wrong. You’re both adults and you have an opinion. If you take the time to listen to each other, you can come up with solutions that incorporate a bit of each person’s opinion. This creates a win-win!

You can use relationship counseling and marriage counseling to assist you in breaking the unfair fighting patterns. In marriage counseling, you have more accountability because you will have to discuss your successes and failures with the therapist weekly. This forces the couple to break out of their rut and develop success in dealing with conflict.

Teens and Social Media: What Parents Need to Know Part I


Ever feel like your teen spends more time typing into their digital device than actually talking with — or spending time with — actual, live people? If you do, you’re not alone. The use of social media has boomed over the past few years, leaving many parents shaking their heads and wondering what’s normal — and what’s healthy — when it comes to teen’s digital lives.

When you were a teen, you probably communicated with your peers by talking face-to-face, giving them a call on the phone, or by using a pen and a pencil. Today’s teens live in a very different world; advances in technology and the advent of social media mean that youth are just as likely to be texting, tweeting or communicating through online platforms like Facebook. For some teens, voice mail — and even e-mail — is obsolete!

In fact, a 2012 study from Common Sense Media found that 90% of teens in the U.S. use social media in one form or another. Seventy-five percent have their own profile on at least one social networking site, and one-third of teens visit that site a few times a day… or more.

Given the pervasive nature of social media and technologies such as texting, it’s not hard to see how technology has transformed the ways that teens communicate, as well as how they view the world and themselves. And it’s also easy for parents to wonder exactly how social media affects their child.

Social media’s impact isn’t easily classified as black or white. While some sing its praises, noting the potential for increased creativity and educational applications, others worry about the potential for negative effects on social development and well-being, from online bullying to victimization — and even the fear that kids will transform into texting machines, unable to carry on a normal, face-to-face conversation.

The answers lie somewhere in the middle, and while parents must stay on top of their child’s social media use, it’s also important to accept that this new technology is simply another facet of life for today’s youth. In my next post, I’ll discuss warning signs that social media may be negatively affecting your child.

Dealing with parenting issues such as technology use can be a challenge; professional intervention can help. If you’re seeking a licensed teen psychologist, Littleton therapist Dr. Steven Lazarus is a child psychologist in Littleton, Colorado who can help your family work through these issues together.

Be sure to read part two:

Teens and Social Media: Warning Signs Part 2





Is Your Teen Suffering From Senioritis? How Parents Can Help

Every spring, it’s the same story: Graduating seniors at high schools around the country come down with a case of “senioritis.” While it may not sound all that serious, senioritis poses enough of a problem to make universities sit up and take notice. In fact, a 2012 article in The New York Times notes that an increasing number of colleges are reviewing students’ grades during their final semesters — and some schools are even reducing financial aid availability, placing would-be students on academic probation or, worst case, rescinding admission offers if performance drops too much!

If your teen is displaying signs of senioritis, such as plummeting grades, laziness, a dismissive attitude, or missing days of school, it may be time to step in. Here’s how you can help.


Seniors typically have a lot going on, from dances and sporting events to studying and after-school jobs. All of these activities can be overwhelming, and a teen with senioritis may be tempted to just let their responsibilities slide.

Provide your teen with the tools to keep on track by helping them set up a scheduling system. Whether it’s a dayplanner, calendar or digital device, organizational tools will help reduce stress during senior year, and teach valuable skills for the years to come.

Performance Check

Though its best to try and refrain from nagging or yelling at your teen — most likely, it won’t help and it might even backfire — you’re still their parent and it’s your job to ensure that they’re still pulling their weight, academically speaking. Even if they’ve already gotten that college acceptance letter, academic performance still matters.

The study habits they develop now will carry over to college, and if they’re procrastinating, cutting corners and letting their grades drop, they’re much more likely to run into trouble during their freshman year. Remind your child that the strong skills and habits they’re developing this year will make a huge difference when they’re out on their own; have them think of the extra effort as an investment in their future success.

Talk to Them

The transitional stage between the end of high school and the start of college is fraught with uncertainty. On one hand, kids are excited to end their childhood, leave home, and go off into the world. On the other hand, they feel anxious about leaving their friends, families and the regular routines they’ve followed for years. These conflicting emotions of grief, loss and exhilaration may lead to distraction, lack of academic focus, restlessness, and a tendency to simply “let it slide.”

Help your child work through these feelings by talking to them. Let them know that what they’re experiencing is very normal. Most kids experience some sort of senioritis, and a bit of acting out is to be expected.

However, if your child’s behavior seems as if it’s veering out of control or you suspect substance abuse issues, depression or anxiety, it may be time to seek professional help.

Dr. Steven Lazarus is a licensed teen psychologist and child psychologist in Littleton, Colorado. He can help your family work through issues like senioritis together.


http://www.nacacnet.org/studentinfo/articles/Pages/Senioritis.aspx http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/four-strategies-teachers- can-use-to-prevent-senioritis/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201301/finishing-high-school-and-senioritis-academic-letdown http://www.drmarlo.com/?page_id=837 http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/18/university-sends-fear-of-god-letter-to-students-with-senioritis/