Happily Connected

Group of Children holding phones and tablets

Happily Contacted

Create a healthy relationship with social media.

By Nora Hickey

Social media, by definition, is technology that helps people connect, share and create across miles and topics. Sounds pretty great, right? Well, the reality of is a bit murkier, with studies showing the negative effects of using that glowing screen always at our side. So, as we are compelled to log on, swipe through and post, how can we manage social media use in our own home?

Start with Observation
Albuquerque clinical counselor Joshua Newman, LPCC, increasingly counsels clients about technology. “Attempting to have a healthy relationship with technology and social media starts with being intentional and mindful,” he says. To start to understand your own unique relationship to it, Newman recommends tracking. “Don’t try to change anything. Just observe your usage habits, as a scientist would observe an object of study, and then make notes. For example, how much time are you spending on said activity, how do you feel before, during and after, etc. Once you have some baseline data, then you can begin to identify what changes you hope to make,” he says.

Create a Plan of Action
Once you have an understanding of your own usage, you can take steps to modify it.

Some strategies involve setting boundaries with your phone, whether it’s designating one day a week off from something you spend too much time on, or establishing a bedtime for your phone. You can also get an “unplug box” — a container to physically put your phone in. There are many available on Etsy or make your own!

If you have kids, a straightforward way to control use is to set up some rules around technology, like no devices overnight, or at other specific times like during meals. Newman also encourages parents to be involved in their child’s online life. “I think it’s very important for parents to enter into their children’s digital worlds. Parents need to be curious about what games their kids are playing, and what sites they are visiting. Have conversations. Explore media together. After all, a strong and trusting relationship between parent and child is the most powerful resource a parent can have.”

There’s an App for That
Ironically, apps can be a great help when creating a healthy relationship with social media. One local lawyer and mom of a 13-year-old boy uses OurPact app for blocking and scheduling phones. OurPact is one of the most-used parental control and locator apps. “In addition to content-based blocking, I can schedule times his phone only works for calls and texts — no data or pictures,” she says. Other popular parental apps include Net Nanny Parental Control and Kaspersky Safe Kids.

For adults, too, apps can be a huge help in limiting the distraction of social media. The Freedom app allows users to block specific sites and apps for a fixed amount of time. Another app called Space is a “personalized behavior change program” that aims to help people find the right time-balance with their phone.

As social media and technology become inextricably linked with our lives, more tools and solutions are being created to help us achieve a happy and healthy relationship.