Family Conflict: Electronics & Social Media

Tips from a Child/Family Therapist:

Working with families, one of the most common conflicts that arises (and the one that often becomes the most heated) between teens and their parents is concerning electronic usage and social media. Teens today seem attached to their phones and tablets – texting their friends nonstop, constantly checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to see what they missed in the last 5 minutes, or watching hours of Netflix or YouTube videos.  The electronic device is there on the dinner table, it prevents them from completing homework, it intervenes with family time and effective communication, and can even lead to increased anxiety and depression.   In session, I am often looked to as a guru about what is appropriate. And the truth is that it varies from home to home and from teen to teen; however there are some common strategies that can be utilized – just adjusted to fit each unique individual or family. Here are some tips for parents on how to manage their teen’s electronic and social media use in a balanced way that is fair for both parties:

  • Create a schedule that includes restrictions, especially around meal and bed times. Restrictions can be for the amount of usage each day/week and also for the kind of usage (i.e.: video chatting versus watching Netflix for hours on end). Make sure you ask for input from your child. This helps them feel that they are contributing to the agreement and you can learn about their interests, priorities, and concerns.
  • Pay attention to your child’s response during and following electronic and social media use. This will determine if you need to decrease the amount of time or way they are using electronics and social media. It may be time to intervene with restrictions and with concern if you’re witnessing negative responses such as academic challenges, sleep disturbances, anger/aggression, depression, and anxiety.
  • Be a role model. Electronic and social media usage is often seen as a “this generation” problem. However, I can’t help but to point out that many adults have the same issues – whether it’s constantly checking emails or taking work calls or watching TV. This may not be as “generational” as we think and our children may be learning it from us. So it’s important for parents to remember that your kids are watching so model behavior that you want them to follow. They are more likely to adhere to your rules if they don’t view you as a hypocrite.
  • Suggest and plan other activities to create balance. Let’s face it, electronic and social media use is part of our children’s lives and is how they communicate, learn, and are entertained. You just want to make sure that they are also experiencing enriching off-screen activities as well. So plan a family game night or a play date or enroll them in a sport or activity.
  • Follow through with these recommendations and with the restrictions you have agreed upon. They can be adjusted later but if you don’t follow them, how can you expect your child to?

The link below from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a wonderful resource that offers guidelines on electronic and social media exposure:

In addition, check out the following article with tips about how to keep your kids safe on social media and how to talk with them about appropriate content:

Tips from a Teenager:

It is true that the controversy surrounding the use of technology can cause conflict between parent and child. That is why I think it’s important, as a teenager, to establish boundaries for yourself. Social media can easily become an unhealthy obsession, distracting yourself from tasks that should be your highest priority. Whether it is making snap chat stories to show all your friends what you’re up to or stepping away from your group to find Pokémon, it is very common for technology to take away your attention and awareness of your current surroundings. Social media is associated with a negative stigma. However, if utilized in the right way, teenagers are able to stay connected with friends as well as stay updated on current issues. Social media apps such as Twitter and now even Snapchat, have trending topics that allow teenagers to read current news articles after just once click. It’s important for our parents to know its benefits and importance. If you feel that you can make your own decisions and are frustrated with your parent’s attempt to monitor your use of technology, take it upon yourself to make changes and positively integrate a healthy amount of technology into your life. Here are some easy reminders that I have found some of us may forget from time to time.

  • Don’t have your phone, computer, or any type of electronic out while doing homework. You won’t be as easily distracted and you will understand the material faster and more thoroughly.
  • Take advantage of the time you have with your friends. There is no need to be on your phone when watching a movie or simply just catching up. It takes away the intimacy from the conversation and honestly, it can be a bit rude as well.
  • With work, homework, errands, and sports, it can be difficult to find a time when everyone in your family is together. In most cases, a time for family occurs at dinner. Enjoy the company and conversation of your family. There is no reason to try and text or tweet your friends when you have opportunity to join a personal conversation right in front of you.
  • You are not and should not be attached to your phone. If you think your phone will be a distraction then leave it in your bag, room, or somewhere out of reach. If it isn’t there, then it won’t be a problem.

Always keep in mind that your attention can only be on one thing at a time. If you choose to use your electronics while something else is occurring, you are missing out on what’s in front of you. So, put down your phone (even just for a little, I know you can do it!) and enjoy the company, conversation, and time with your friends and family.


Remember, the electronic and social media debate can be resolved with time, patience, cooperation, and appropriate intervention.

Until next time,

Katherine Lloyd, LPC



Adrianna Vernace,

CB East Graduate and

Boston College student



Cited References

Social Media: What Parents Must Know (2012, December). Retrieved from

How Much Screen Time is Ok for my Kids? Retrieved from

Teens and the Internet: How Much Is Too Much? (2010, April). Retrieved from

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