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Social Media and Video Gaming: What should parents be concerned about and what can they do?


By: Ryan DeLapp, PhD

Be Cautious with Social Media Use

Currently, children and teens are inundated with digital messages about who they are, what they should care about, and, more broadly, about how the world works. According to the U.S. Surgeon General Advisory published this May, 95% (!) of teens reported “almost constant” use of social media, identifying social media as one of the greatest influencers on this age group’s development. And, while there are some notable social benefits that social media offers youth, this advisory paints a picture of extreme caution for parents and families.

Potential Effects of Social Media Use

Based on research highlighting the heightened incidence of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem in youth using social media, to name only a few adverse effects, parents are encouraged to monitor and limit media use by creating a family media plan, designating media free zones in the home, and building a community with other families who adopt similar media restrictions. To read the latest recommendations for protecting against the harmful effects of social media, check out the full Surgeon General’s Advisory here.

The Impact of Video Gaming on Children and Teens

While the stats surrounding social media are definitely intriguing, I became curious about whether social media is the only form of technology that we should be concerned about. Specifically, I have had several parents express concerns about the effects of video gaming on youth development as well. So, in an effort to broaden this discussion, I had the good fortune of interviewing Dr. Andreas Miles-Novelo, an expert in video game use in teens, to compare and contrast the effects of social media use and video gaming as well as discuss recommendations for managing the effects of media use on children. The podcast below is a recording of our conversation.

Important Takeaways from the Podcast:

It’s not just kids we should be concerned about

“We as adults are victims of this too. Social media isn’t just bad for children and adolescents’ health, it’s bad for adult health too.” – Dr. Miles-Novelo

Parents can support their children in developing intentional and conscientious media use

“I absolutely think balance is important [with any media use], it is a lot less about how much you are engaging with (social media or video games) and it’s more about why you are engaging in (a particular type of media) and what it is you are getting from it. And, are you aware of the changes that are happening when you do engage with (social media or video games)?” – Dr. Miles-Novelo

Parents can try to take a collaborative approach to minimizing the adverse effects of media on the family as a whole

“This isn’t you as a parent trying to control your kid, it’s you as a family trying to fight the control that these companies are trying to impose on you…we [as a family] don’t want this getting in the way of our mental health, the relationships [we] can have with nature or the family that’s immediately around [us] or [our] friends that are immediately around [us].” – Dr. Miles-Novelo

Parents should ‘stay plugged’ in to the media their children are consuming

“One of the biggest pieces of advice I try to give to parents is to stay plugged in…Play the game. Go on the social media app and see what it does and what it’s like. You might not enjoy it. Though it’s probably not made for you to find enjoyable, but you might start to see all these little things that do make your kids find it enjoyable.” – Dr. Miles-Novelo

Social media and video game use is a complex problem

“[When trying to solve any problem], there’s [often] an immediate jump to what are the solutions to change or address this concern. And, when listening to [Dr. Miles-Novelo] it reminds me of the most important first step in problem solving, which is understanding the problem. And, what I think you have done a great job of doing [in this podcast] is laying out how complex and almost mindless this problem can be in one’s day-to-day experience…And, if [parents] really want to help [their children] resolve some of these concerns, it [requires] having empathy for the problem…This is not an easy resolution to just implement some of things that is in this advisory or the recommendations we talked about today.” – Dr. Ryan DeLapp

Listen to the Podcast on Social Media and Video Gaming in Children & Teens


Podcast Timeline:

  • Why is it so hard for parents to be the primary gatekeepers or monitors of social media use in their children? (4:40)
  • What can parents do to promote healthy social media use? (13:15)
  • How can parents encourage kids to monitor the effects that social media is having on them? (17:20)
  • How do the effects of playing video games compare to the effects of social media use, and how might kids be more intentional and conscientious of their video game use? (21:30)
  • What makes video gaming so engaging for kids and why is it so hard for them to set limits on how much they play? (26:30)
  • Why is it important for parents to approach their child’s social media and video game use with empathy and curiosity? (31:30)
  • What are some of the adverse effects of video gaming in kids? (36:30)
  • How can parents encourage kids to monitor the effects that video games are having on them? (41:15)
  • What are some recommended readings if parents want to learn more about the effects of digital media use? (46:45)


Podcast Participants:

Ryan DeLapp, PhD, is a clinical psychologist here at The Ross Center, and the creator of the REACH Program: Racial, Ethnic and Cultural Healing. Read more about Dr. DeLapp HERE.

Ryan DeLapp
Dr. Ryan DeLapp

Andreas Miles-Novelo, PhD is a faculty in the Media Psychology program at Fielding Graduate University. His research focuses broadly on the external impacts on human behavior, including emerging technologies, media, and climate change. He graduated with his PhD in Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction from Iowa State University. To follow Dr. Miles-Novelo’s work, follow him on twitter @AMilesNovello.

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