At Bement, we know firsthand the challenges of setting limits on screen time in a home setting. We have worked carefully over the years to articulate a technology policy that is healthy and effective for our boarding students and dorm parents, and we hope it might be a helpful guideline for parents as they steer their children in the direction of making good choices around technology use.
For further reflection on social media and screen time, we went to the experts. We’ve often found that the wisest, most thoughtful voices on this topic are those of our children. Bement sixth graders brainstormed the following questions that were on their minds, and ninth graders responded with the answers you’ll see below each question. This “kid to kid” exchange helps our older students reflect on their own experiences and share their knowledge with our younger students -- and now with you!
Why do people use social media? How does social media help you?
- “People use social media as a way to connect with friends and sometimes find new friends. Social media has helped me connect with friends outside of school, and gain more relationships.”
- “People use social media for a lot of reasons. For example, I use social media for entertainment, school work, and communication with others. Social media is an easier way for me to connect with people.”
- “Social media is another tool for people to communicate with people. It's a very useful and convenient when people use it properly.”
- “People use social media so they can communicate with each other while sharing things about themselves. Social media helps me keep up with current events, and my friends' lives.”
- “People use social media to connect with family, friends, and peers. It also gives insight and quick access to current events.”
What are safe things to post?
- “There aren't specific "safe" things to post, but you should know when something is unsafe, if you are second-guessing whether you should post it or not, then you should most likely not post it.”
- “In general most things that do NOT contain personal information, graphic images, or hateful words, pictures, or messages.”
- “It really depends on who can see the post. If the post is open to the public, posting something too personal would not be a good choice. However, if only people I know can see the post, sharing my daily life is acceptable. But remember, even if the person who can see the post is someone I'm close with, don't post things like passwords for other websites because it would be unsafe.”
How much time should we be spending on social media per day?
- “We should spend 1-2 hours a day on social media because it is enough time to scroll through posts and also talk to others. More than that could be bad for you since communicating in real life is more beneficial than online.”
- “I don't think that it is healthy to spend too much time on social media. It can really damage your self-confidence. You can easily get sucked into the internet and be engaged in an unsafe activity. Remember, when your parents want to look through your Instagram, they aren't being annoying, they want you to stay safe. They know that it is difficult to make good judgments as a teenager, and social media almost makes it even harder.”
- “Not more than two hours.”
- “One hour because it gives you enough time to socialize with friends, but you also need the other time to converse with family and do homework.”
- “It depends on the person's daily schedule. However, an amount where social media would not restrict you from getting rest or participate in other activities.”
- “The limit that I set for myself is 1-1.5 hours per day. This limit is ok as long as it does not deter from other things such as family, sports, and school work.”
- “One hour in total, but not all at once.”
Should your account be public or private?
- “This is up to you. I would suggest that you keep your account private. There are many people on social media who you do not want to be able to see pictures or things about you. For your own safety, you should have a private account. If you are famous then it is different, but otherwise, you should keep your account private.”
- “Your account should be kept private. When your account is public, anyone can see your profile. They can see photos that you posted that could be of yourself and that isn't safe. On a private account, only people you allow to follow you can see your posts and information. Therefore, it is safer to keep your account on private, so only your friends can see your posts.”
- “It depends on the purpose of why you are using it in the first place. If you want to make new friends that you don't meet face to face, public should suffice. Use private if you prefer to choose your targeted audiences yourself.”
- “Your account should be private. I believe that you should have the choice of who sees your post. You should have control over who can view your account.”
- “Your account should be private so that you can choose the people who can view your stories or posts. Making your account public allows anybody to view your account which increases the danger of being hacked.”
- “It depends on which kind of things that are posted in our profile. However, it is much more safe to use a private account for social media.”
- “You should have a private account so that you can choose who sees the things that you post. It is safer and reassuring that only your friends are viewing your posts.”
How do you respond to hateful messages on social media?
- “I try to see what about my post has offended the other person. When I've found it, I try to apologize. When there is nothing offensive and someone is just being hateful, I write them a message kindly telling them to leave me alone and mind their business. If the hate comments start to get out of hand, you can report them, or talk to an older student/ adult.”
- “In my perspective, it is better to keep our own words to ourselves just because it is better not to spread the fire.”
- “You take a screenshot of the messages and tell a teacher and a parent.”
- “The best thing to do is to tell your parents and do not respond to the person that sent something hurtful to you. The best thing is to ignore it.”
- “I would just ignore the message and block the user who sent me the message.”
- “Don't respond and report them. Tell someone you trust.”
Is communicating easier with social media? If so, what makes it easier?
- “I think that it is harder since it is easier for people to misinterpret what you are saying. Being able to use your body language and tone of voice is essential in getting your message out.”
- “Yes, you don't always have to be face-to-face with a person to talk to them; if you have social media you can talk to them over the phone.”
- “It is not necessarily easier, it just gives children another way to socialize with friends after school or over break, when they are not given the option to socialize in school.”
- “In my opinion, communicating is easier with social media because we can either choose to talk face-to-face on the internet or we can choose to text each other.”
- “Yes, especially when the person you want to communicate is not around.”
- “Yes, it does. It helps me to express my emotions in greater detail, have less pressure when I contact someone, and hold a vast amount of information.”
- “It is easier, but that can lead to problems. The marketing that it is "private" or "temporary" encourages bad decision-making and posts that lead to other problems.”