Smartphone Anxiety and Depression: The Struggle is Real (Part 3)

Last but certainly not least, here we are at part 3 of our discussion on Smartphone Anxiety and Depression. If you missed the first two parts of this series or if you forgot any info, please go back and re-read the blogs due to this being a series that build on each other.

To briefly recap part 2, we talked about how/why smartphones and social media seem to lead to adverse behaviors in our kids. We discussed how they are trying to find answers to who they are, and smartphones are giving them a platform to explore different answers. As a result, if not careful, kids can start to find their identity in what others say or think about them and how well they are accepted on social media (likes, followers, comments, etc.). This “false identity” can lead to anxiety, depression, stress, suicidal thoughts, tiredness, etc. But this trap doesn’t have to happen to your kid.

So here’s the question: How can we, as parents, be proactive in helping our kids not fall into the natural anxiety and depression rhythms that smartphones can give way to?

I’m glad you asked! Before we answer this, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Your honest answers to these questions will help guide you in better understanding your kid’s involvement on their phones and what appropriate next steps you should take. (Tip: try not to compare your kid to others, focus only on your own)

Be Honest (Ask yourself these questions)

  • What is my main goal in letting my kid have social media? (Is it more to get them off my back or to build something in them: responsibility, character, integrity, awareness, etc.)
  • Is social media getting in the way or providing a way?
  • Is social media usage helping or hurting your kid? What is your kid’s typical emotion or posture after their phone/social media usage? (Happy, sad, hurt, quiet, hiding, angry)
  • “Is my kid’s social media use facilitating connection or creating a façade of connection?” – Navigating Adolescence
  • Does my kid WANT to connect with friends outside of their phone? How often?
  • How often do they play outside of their phone?
  • Are priorities (responsibilities, chores, grades) taking a step back due to their phone usage?

Remember, your answers to these questions will help guide your thinking on how smartphones and social media are affecting (or will soon affect) your kid. However, with that said, there’s one key thing that can help your kid be smart on their phone/social media and that’s for you as a parent to be involved and intentional in this area of their life. Genuinely, this is the number one thing for keeping kids safe and smart on these devices.

Be Involved and Intentional

Our kids are craving relationships; so if you want to connect with them better, learn to meet them where they are. Where are they? Many of them live on their smartphones, specifically social media. So what should you specifically do?

Here are some helpful hints:

  • Know what apps they are using.
  • Know whom they are following.
  • Know what they are posting.
  • Friend or follow them on the social media networks they have.
  • Ask questions.
  • Do social media together.
  • Set agreements, such as tech curfews, no tech zones, random phone checks.
  • Have the hard conversations with them, asking them how they are doing/feeling.
  • Model proper usage of your smartphone and social media, they will pick up on it. If you are anxious, then they will pick up on that and be the same in some ways.
  • Have a specific plan to help keep you and your family from falling into the trap of mindless and distractive overuse of the phone.
  • All in all, the more involved and intentional you are, the smarter and safer your kid will be on their smartphone.

Yes, this requires time, patience, hard work and lots of grace, but it’s worth it. Your kid is worth it. I’ve recently heard it put this way:

“We would never give our kids keys to a car without training them, riding with them, teaching them the laws, best practices, etc. And we should treat smartphones and social media the same way.”

The truth is, smartphones are not going away anytime soon, so let’s be determined and intentional in helping our kids be smart on their phones and social media. Even though this takes some effort, YOU can do this! Seriously, you can. Here at Be Socially Smart, we are here to walk alongside you as you navigate this area of your kid’s life. Consider joining the Be Socially Smart family today!