Finding balance online

Not all Screen Time is the Same

For young people (and for everyone!) it's important to find the right balance between time spent online and offline. As tech shows up in more places in our lives, we need to pay attention to both the quantity and quality of the time we spend in online spaces.

As always: the conversation is just the first step. Parents should have a good sense of where their teens are spending their time online, and have conversations with them about whether that time is well-spent.

Above all: try your best to understand how their use of tech and the internet is making them feel. By learning more about how your teen likes to spend their time online, you can support their well-being by helping them find balance between offline and online activity.

Tips for Helping Teens Manage Screen Time

While there is no single, best way to talk to your teens about their internet use, there are ways to get the conversation started. If you’re noticing that your teen is being negatively affected by screen time, start by bringing the subject up at an appropriate time.

A good best practice is to first get a sense of how they feel about the time they already spend online and using social media. To get this sense, you can ask questions like:

  • Do you feel like you are spending too much time online?
  • Is the time you’re spending online keeping you from fulfilling your other responsibilities?
  • How is the time you’re spending affecting you (physically or emotionally)?

Answers of “yes” to the first two questions will give you an indication of how your teen feels about the time they’re spending online. From there, you can start to help them find ways of managing that time, and balancing it with meaningful activities offline.

You can ask follow-up questions like:

  • How long do you go in the morning before checking your phone?
  • Do you find yourself getting distracted or anxious without it?
  • When you hang out with your friends, are you on your phone a lot?
  • What kind of offline activities do you miss doing?
  • Is there anything you wish you had more time for?

Exploring Interests Offline

Another good way to cut down on screen time is to not just put the phone away, but also actively work to fill that time with meaningful and fun activities offline.

If your teen is into making art, playing music, reading books, building things, playing sports - or anything not involving screen time - help them out! Develop those interests by staying interested in what they’re doing. Young people can turn to their phones for comfort, or sometimes just out of boredom. Try not to let them always avoid those feelings. A little discomfort or boredom could lead a young person to grow in other ways when they work through those feelings.

Often, the things, topics and creators that young people follow online are a good indicator of the things they’re interested in offline.

For example, if they follow creators that teach how to DIY cook, dance, or any other skill, encourage them to practice some of those tutorials at home or with their friends. Help them find balance and support their self-expression by encouraging fun, offline activity with inspiration from the online world.

By staying interested in their lives, you can help them develop those offline interests, cutting down on overall screen time.

Need ideas? Here are some activities to help your teen find balance:

Meta Get Digital: Wellness Activities for Youth

Finding Balance on Social Media

Instagram has helpful tools that allow parents and teens to create positive experiences on the app. For example, as you and your teen talk through how to best spend time on Instagram, also talk about tools to help you find balance like setting daily time limits on the app or enabling reminders to take a break.

You can find these tools at:

Instagram - Set Daily Time Limit

Instagram - Take A Break

For younger teens, you may want to help guide them through their initial experiences with social media. To foster positive and balanced experiences on Instagram, make use of the many supervision tools that are available. In your conversations with your teen, talk about how it is important to find balance between the quality and quantity of time spent on Instagram. Agree on a healthy balance and set up supervision tools together.

Instagram’s supervision tools can help you view your teen’s followers and following list, set daily time limits for the app, and see insights about their app usage.

Instagram - Supervision Tools

Learn more information on Meta’s products and resources to help you and your teen find balance:

Facebook - Set Time Limits

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