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7 Ways Parents Can Help Children Start Healthier Lives On Social Media

Dr. Michael Thompson, consulting child psychologist at our brother/sister summer camp in New Hampshire, recently shared this excellent piece in the New York Times titled “Seven Ways Parents Can Help 13-Year-Olds Start Their Social Media Lives Right”. This information is incredibly important, since, according to the Pew Research Center, 57% of 13- and 14-year olds use Facebook, 44% use Instagram, and 21% use Twitter. As even the most savvy adult has learned, successfully and safely navigating this world of social media isn’t always easy. Far too many young people fail to grasp just how vulnerable they can make themselves on these platforms, or how truly permanent their photos, videos and postings are in this virtual world. It’s just one of the reasons why our camp community requires our campers to spend 7 weeks of their summers unplugged from the internet.

Additionally, researchers are finding that while social networks give young people the ability to expand their opportunities to meet and converse with others, that real life social challenges are likely to translate into virtual social challenges.

RELATED: Research overwhelmingly supports the need for summers unplugged

“Students who are comfortable socially in offline interactions seem to know exactly how to use social media to get a lot of support and affirmation online,” said Marion Underwood, dean of graduate studies in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas and a co-author of the “Being 13” report. Social media seems to amplify young adolescents’ personality characteristics rather than changing them. “It’s a situation where the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer,” Dr. Underwood said.

This means that it’s vital that parents take an active and intentional role in guiding their child’s first forays into this virtual world. It’s no less important than preparing your child for the first day of school, or their first sleepover at a friend’s house. 

As our campers begin to enter this world of online social media many of their parents reach out to us for thoughts and advice. Quite often they are frustrated at not having a time-tested roadmap or manual for guiding their child through this phase of their life, as they did for the first day of school or summer camp. This is only exacerbated by how regularly a new social site or app pops up that they know little or nothing about.


Thankfully, the team at the University of Texas has compiled a list of social media parenting best practices that make intuitive sense to us. Take a look at them below:

  1. Agree on boundaries.
  2. Start with Instagram.
  3. Watch for lurking.
  4. But lurk yourself.
  5. Don’t rely on your child’s own posts.
  6. Share your own experiences.
  7. Expect mistakes, and don’t expect your child to be you.

For further explanation of each of these 7 points, we invite you to click here to read the entire article.

Here at our brother/sister summer camp we love the world of social media. We use things like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even this blog to keep in touch with our camp friends and families who live all over the world. And yet we also are becoming increasingly aware of how important it is for people of all ages — but especially children — to spend time unplugged from their mobile devices, interacting face-to-face with real people. 

RELATED: Children unplugging from mobile devices can lead to happiness

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The Developmental Importance Of
Unplugging Our Children
Have you read some of the studies about the impact these wonderful gadgets can have on developing brains? If not, take a look at some of this startling data and analysis. You’ll see why it has become so important to our community that our campers spend their summers unplugged!

While you’re at it, take a look at the many parenting resources that we’ve gathered together for you on our website!

Take a look at our Parenting Resources page

Camps Kenwood and Evergreen is a brother/sister summer camp in Wilmot, NH. During our 7-week season we offer more than 35 different and exciting activities to campers ages 7-15.