ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Kids and teens spend a lot of time on social media. Between five to seven and a half hours a day, according to a 2019 survey from Common Sense Media.

How can parents or caregivers keep kids and teens safe in a society increasingly reliant on social media platforms? There is a lot of advice online, but most experts agree that setting limits, talking about expectations, and protecting privacy are key.

“Talk to your teen about how to avoid letting social media interfere with his or her activities, sleep, meals, or homework. Encourage a bedtime routine that avoids electronic media use, and keep cellphones and tablets out of teens’ bedrooms. Set an example by following these rules yourself,” the Mayo Clinic suggests.

The Department of Justice said parents/caregivers can protect kids from social media by:

  • Talk to kids/teens and come up with a safety plan
  • Check their posts and profiles on social media apps
  • Review apps, games, and social media sites before letting a kid/teen download them
  • Use parental controls and adjust privacy settings
  • Explain to kids/teens that they should not be sharing information, photos, or videos with people they don’t know in real life
  • Explain the importance of saying “no” and setting bodily boundaries and encourage them to talk to someone if someone asks them to engage in sexual acts or other inappropriate behavior
  • Pay attention to changes in kids/teens personality or behavior like hiding online activity, anxiety, depression, angry outbursts, or withdrawing from normal activities

How much time spent on social media is too much time? A 2019 survey found that kids between 12-15 years old, spending more than three hours a day on social media were at a higher risk of poor mental health. More time spent on social media can make kids and teens more susceptible to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and poor sleeping quality, the Mayo Clinic said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said the COVID-19 pandemic is also having a negative effect on the mental health of children and teens. It’s why they said they declared a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

“As health professionals dedicated to the care of children and adolescents, we have witnessed soaring rates of mental health challenges among children, adolescents, and their families over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating the situation that existed prior to the pandemic,” said AAP.

The Mayo Clinic said it’s also important for parents/caregivers to encourage kids and teens to see friends in person.