United in Resolution: How Your Family Can Make the Most of the New Year

A new year is upon us, and it may bring with it promises of beginnings and opportunities for positive change. The start of the New Year is not just a marker of time, but it can also be a symbolic moment to reflect on the past and envision a brighter future. In addition, the New Year can be a time when you and your family create your special individual and family New Year’s resolutions. Developing an annual tradition in which all family members think about positivity can foster a sense of personal growth, for children and adults, and may encourage family bonding and improve goal-setting skills. Let’s discuss some strategies for setting New Year’s resolutions individually and within the family context and ideas for implementing practical approaches that can make this activity a meaningful experience for every family member.

Why set New Year’s resolutions with children

When parents or caregivers involve their children in setting New Year’s resolutions, they are modeling positive behaviors and offering children opportunities to learn how to set goals for themselves and begin to understand the value of personal development. Participating in goal setting can teach children responsibility and perseverance and can give them an opportunity to feel joy as they achieve something meaningful. By involving your children in this process, you empower them and strengthen the family bond as you work towards meeting shared objectives and create a tradition to look forward to every year.

The SMART way to set goals

Consider using the SMART goal framework to set your New Year’s resolutions. SMART goals provide a clear roadmap for success and are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Establishing SMART goals can ensure that resolutions set by family members are well defined, realistic, and attainable within a designated time frame.

Let’s break down the components of SMART goals with some examples:

  • Specific: Specify exactly what you want to achieve.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Exercise more.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Take a family walk for 30 minutes every evening after dinner.”
  • Measurable: Establish a way to track your progress, and determine when you have met your goal.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Read more books.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Read one book each month, and discuss it with the family.”
  • Achievable: Ensure that your goal is realistic and attainable.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Learn a new instrument.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Practice the guitar for 15 minutes every day.”
  • Realistic: Set goals that are reasonable and within your capabilities.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Get all A’s in school.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Improve my grades by dedicating 1 hour to homework each school night.”
  • Timely: Define a time frame for accomplishing your goal.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Learn a new language.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Complete an online language course by June.”

Start small and build up

Start small, and set goals that can be easily achieved. Using this approach can increase opportunities for positive feedback, prevent feelings of discouragement, and foster a positive and empowering mindset for all family members. When goals are within one’s grasp, the individual is more likely to stay motivated and committed. Starting small and reaching these goals allow individuals, especially children, a chance to experience the satisfaction of progress and success. Their confidence can also be improved by reaching milestones, and they may find ways to build on those accomplishments! By striving to keep goals attainable, families can set themselves up for a journey filled with achievable milestones, continuous growth, and fun.

Set family resolutions

In addition to each family member setting individual SMART goals, families can set resolutions (or goals) they want to achieve together. These shared objectives can strengthen familial bonds and encourage collective growth. When families set resolutions together, they foster an environment of collaboration and support in which each member plays a vital role in achieving shared aspirations. Listed below are some examples of family resolutions, resolutions for younger children, and resolutions for adolescents and teens.

Weekly Family Meals:

  • SMART Goal: “Have a family meal together once a week and be together at least 30 minutes with no phones at the table.”

Exercise Routine:

  • SMART Goal: “Engage in 30 minutes of family exercise each day and allow each family member the opportunity to choose an activity to engage in that week (e.g., dancing, walking the dog, going to the park).”

Cooking Together:

  • SMART Goal: “Make one evening ‘Family Cook Night’ where the entire family will prepare, cook, and eat a meal together. Each family member will get a chance to choose a meal they would like to prepare.”

Family Game Night:

  • SMART Goal: “Schedule a weekly family game night, and turn off screens to reconnect and enjoy quality time.”

For Younger Children:

  • Daily Chores:
    • SMART Goal: Complete morning routine: Get up, get dressed, make your bed, eat breakfast, and brush your teeth.
  • Reading Habits:
    • SMART Goal: “Read for 20 minutes a day either independently or with a family member.”

For Adolescents/Teens:

  • Screen-Free Time:
    • SMART Goal: Learn/practice a new skill that doesn’t involve the use of a screen.
  • Balanced Lifestyle:
    • SMART Goal: “Go outside for at least 1 hour a day to engage in physical activity like running, biking, tennis, or pickleball.”

Revisit resolutions and goals as needed

Adaptability can be key when it comes to setting goals. Allow flexibility for yourself and your child so you can adjust any pre-established goals throughout the year and encourage success. Kids grow and change rapidly, and their interests and capabilities will evolve. Adjusting goals, as needed, allows for a more realistic and encouraging approach and considers the developmental stage of your child and their priorities. Whether modifying learning objectives, altering extracurricular commitments, or pivoting to a new hobby, parents who can recognize and adapt to these changes can ensure children’s goals remain achievable and aligned with their needs and aspirations. Teaching children the value of flexibility in goal setting can equip them with essential life skills and can foster a resilient and positive attitude toward overcoming challenges.

Incorporating SMART goals into your family’s New Year’s resolutions can set the stage for a successful and fulfilling year. As you embark on this journey together, remember that your commitment to continuous improvement is vital. To further support your resolution-setting endeavors and make this process more rewarding for you and your children, explore the resources listed below. Here’s to a SMART and joyful New Year for your family!

Additional Resources

Cooking to Thrive

Moving to Thrive

Family Media Guidelines

Eating Together as a Family

5210 Tips for Families


Aghera, A., Emery, M., Bounds, R., Bush C, Stansfield, R. B., Gillett, B., & Santen, S. A. (2018, January). A randomized trial of SMART goal enhanced debriefing after simulation to promote educational actions. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 19(1), 112-120. https://doi.org/10.5811/westjem.2017.11.36524

Le, B. M., & Impett, E. A. (2019). Parenting goal pursuit is linked to emotional well-being, relationship quality, and responsiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(3), 879-904. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407517747417

Nair, A., Nair, D., Girdhar, M., & Gugnani, A. (2021). Optimizing developmental outcomes by setting smart goals individualized home program for children with disabilities during COVID-19. International Journal of Physiotherapy and Research, 9(5), 4028–4034. https://doi.org/10.16965/ijpr.2021.184

Children: Technology and Socialization

Although the restrictions that emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic limited people’s abilities to connect face-to-face, many families and children were able to adapt and use technology to help them stay connected. For example, your family may have kept in contact with loved ones through social media and video calls. Even though social distancing is less common now, there are ways that your child’s social-skill development may benefit from interacting with technology.

How Can Technology Benefit Children Socially?

Internet-based communication and connections are often commonplace with adolescents and teens in our society. So, as a parent, you may want to broach these topics with your younger child (and even your teen) to help keep them safe in the social media world while also letting them experience the world the internet has opened up. With technology, your child’s world can expand beyond the physical region in which you live. When parents and caregivers allow children to safely experience the world through their internet-based community and connections, these children can realize some important benefits (Digital Responsibility, 2023):

  • Meet and make friends with peers who live all around the world.
  • Be exposed to and learn about different cultures, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and religions.
  • Learn about and experience empathy, tolerance, and understanding toward other people.
  • Discover how human’s interact with others on a larger scale.
  • Connect with peers in a comfortable setting. This may be helpful for individuals who struggle with or may be nervous about face-to-face interactions.
  • Stay connected with peers and family members they may not often see in person.

How Can You Help Your Child Use Technology?

Although there are benefits to using technology as a way for anyone to develop social skills and increase socialization, as a parent, you may want to help your child learn how to balance their technology use (raisingchildren.net.au, 2022). Try some of the suggestions, below, to help your child balance their time using technology, and, as a bonus, stay involved in their lives in the process!

Encourage face-to-face socialization

  • Encourage your child to interact with and spend time with peers in a face-to-face situation in addition to their communications through technology.
    • Communicating and socializing face-to-face with others can help your child learn social cues, such as body language and facial expressions, in order to enhance their interactions and social skills.

Set boundaries and expectations

  • Discuss with your child what realistic and healthy expectations for their technology use could look like.
    • Work with your child to create and set these expectations. Because you are involving your child in this process, they are learning how to set boundaries for future situations and are more likely to follow the agreed-upon rules.

Play video games together

  • Learn about their games, and ask about the friends they are playing with.
    • Doing this can help you learn about their interests, can offer you opportunities to discuss social situations within the game, and help you be more in tune with their connections (e.g., for safety reasons).

Watch media together

  • Sit with your child and watch their favorite television show or movie, and talk to them about the social situations that are happening on the screen.
    • This can be an opportunity for you to connect with your child and discuss real-life situations in a non-threatening or pressured way.

When you and your child work together to use technology safely and responsibly, you and your child can identify ways to positively benefit from social interactions inside and outside of the household!

Additional Resources

Setting Boundaries and Expectations (mini-booster module)

Harmful Behaviors: Recognize. Respond. Repair. (supplemental module)

AAP Screen Time and Children

Common Sense Media


Digital Responsibility. (2023). Digital responsibility: Taking control of your digital life.http://www.digitalresponsibility.org/the-social-impact-of-technology-on-children

Prothero, A. (2022, April 12). Is tech destroying kids’ social skills? Here’s how social-emotional learning can help. EducationWeek.org. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/is-tech-destroying-kids-social-skills-heres-how-social-emotional-learning-can-help/2022/04

Raisingchildren.net.au. (2022, October 27). Using screen time and digital technology to socialize: Children and teenagers. https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/entertainment-technology/digital-life/screen-time-social-life

Żerebecki, B. G., & Opree, S. J. (2022, December). The direct and indirect effects of social technology use on children’s life satisfaction. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, 34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcci.2022.100538

Adolescent Social Media Use

Recently published statistics indicated that, in 2018, 97% of youth in the United States between the ages of 13 and 17 interacted with social media apps (Mayo Clinic, 2022), and, usually, this interface occurred on their own devices. In fact, it is common to see youth this age interacting and engaging regularly with social media. So, is this increased usage of social media positive, negative, or does it have both qualities? Whether adolescents’ use of social media is helpful, harmful, or both is complicated, and the answer likely depends on several factors, such as your child’s age, maturity or developmental level, and/or self-confidence.

Adolescent outcomes from social-media usage can vary from person to person and experience to experience (Beyens et al., 2020). Your child may be using social media to continue, or enhance, connections with their peers. For example, your child may be sharing their new favorite song, discussing a homework assignment, or having other positive and meaningful interactions with another child. However, as a parent, you will probably want to be knowledgeable about and aware of whom your child is communicating with and how your child is communicating with them. For example, your child may, knowingly or unknowingly, be engaging in harmful interactions, like as a perpetrator or victim of bullying.

Let’s examine some of the benefits and dangers of adolescent social-media usage and consider how you can help your adolescent’s social-media experience be positive.

Adolescent Social Media Benefits

Healthy socialization

Developmentally, adolescents are at a stage in life when they begin to explore and understand where they fit socially into society. Social experiences become increasingly important and frequent as children move through their teenage years (Shah et al., 2019). Teens may often confide in one another during times of emotional distress or confusion. This interaction is not new to the social-media age, and, generally, it is not a bad situation. Using social media allows teens to have discussions and voice their thoughts and feelings in real time (Shah et al., 2019). In addition, they can share and apply pro-social behaviors and standards that can translate into offline social interactions. Furthermore, research has continually shown that social-media use can help adolescents make and keep friendships (Uhls et al., 2017).


Using social media can provide opportunities for adolescents to explore who they are as an individual, such as their values, needs, or goals, and determine how they want to present themselves to others. Some research has shown that adolescents who communicate online demonstrate higher levels of self-understanding (Uhls et al., 2017). Additionally, social media can give teens an avenue for self-expression. Research indicates that there is a connection between social-media usage and adolescents being able to express themselves in a way that feels true to themselves, and this, then, can increase youths’ levels of self-confidence (Kim et al., 2019).

Adolescent Social Media Dangers

Psychological challenges

As discussed above, social media can have a positive impact on child development. However, social-media usage also has the potential to have a negative psychological impact on children (Shah et al., 2019). Some of the more common negative consequences include the following:

  • Experience depression
  • Develop body image issues
  • Increase risky behavior
  • Feel anxious
  • Suffer loneliness
  • Experience suicide ideation


Cyberbullying refers to aggressive and harassing actions that an individual or group uses via electronic communication with the intent to harm or intimidate another person or group. Research indicates that victims of cyberbullying have an increased chance of developing depression or other maladaptive behavioral problems. Furthermore, digital applications offer an avenue for bullies to use as they exhibit harmful behaviors because they eliminate ways their victims can avoid them, they decrease the chance of bystander intervention, and they maintain online anonymity (Parris et al., 2022; Shah, 2019). In addition, victims of cyberbullying are often not the targets of in-person bullying (Parris et al., 2022), which means that parents cannot rely on in-person social interactions their child has as predictors of their child’s online experiences.

Some examples of cyberbullying include the following:

  • Engaging in harassment via instant messaging (e.g., direct messaging, wall postings, text),
  • Creating websites that target a specific individual,
  • Posting pictures or videos the victim would not want to have posted,
  • Producing threatening video content, and
  • Doxing (i.e., accessing and sharing a victim’s personal information found online with the intention of eroding the privacy and/or security of the victim)

What Can Parents and Caregivers Do to Ensure a Healthy Social Media Experience?

Promoting open and honest discussions with adolescents is one way to help these youth deal with many of the challenges they face in their lives—including social-media experiences. These conversations could happen regularly, so you are able to check in and follow any challenges your child may be having. You can help your child understand digital boundaries by explaining to your child what their online behavior is expected to be. Make sure you and child clearly understand and agree about what content and interactions are allowed based on your family’s rules. In addition, you will want to explain to your child how they can keep themselves safe while interacting with others online. Below, find a few resources that contain information on safety steps you can share with your child.

Earlier this year the American Psychological Association (APA) released their most current recommendations for adolescent social-media use. The APA is a premier scientific and professional organization that sets benchmarks and recommendations for the field of psychology. This report urges parents to ensure their youth engage in some type of “social media literacy training” (American Psychological Association, 2023). Social-media literacy training includes mental, emotional, and technical preparation that intends to promote positive social-media experiences and outcomes (Polanco-Levicán & Salvo-Garrido, 2022). There are learning activities, planners, tips, and conversation guides that parents and children can access. For instance, Comonsense.org has several different social-media literacy resources and trainings that are tailored to different child-development stages and needs. Becoming social-media literate is only one of the APA’s recommendations for positive adolescent social-media usage.

A few of the additional recommendations given by the APA report include the following:

  • Be mindful of your child’s stage of development, and adjust usage, settings, and permissions based on this level of development.
  • Monitor what your child is doing on social media. Be sure to keep your child’s privacy in mind while doing this. Younger children will most likely need more supervision and instruction on how to use social media safely. As children mature, offer opportunities for your child to increase their digital literacy and gain confidence. Parents may wish to allow their child more privacy in their social-media usage as the child gets older.
  • Explain, in a developmentally appropriate way, and be clear about the associated family and/or legal consequences of engaging in social-media activities that encourage illegal behavior or other harmful and high-risk behaviors.
  • Monitor your child and be vigilant about supervising their social-media usage so you can help identify when social media is having a negative impact on your child’s mental health.
  • Establish family rules around social-media use (e.g., Family Media Plan) to prevent social media from interfering with your adolescent’s sleep or exercise.

A link to the full APA report, Health Advisory on Social Media Use in Adolescence, can be found below in the Additional Resources section below.

The Thrive Initiative offers web-based universal parent-education programming—Grow and Branch Out—and two supplemental parent-education modules—Adolescent Mental Health: Parenting to Wellness and Harmful Behaviors: Recognize. Respond. Repair —that can offer additional strategies for engaging in social-media use for adolescents and teens. You can find more about each program listed above by visiting the Thrive website at https://thrive.psu.edu

Parents will likely want to understand the impacts that social-media use can have on their child’s development and health. Youth should be encouraged to explore and interact with the parts of social media that can be productive and healthy. On the other hand, there are dangers, and you and your child should discuss these dangers, so they can be avoided if possible. The digital landscape is constantly changing, which, makes it difficult to be aware of all of the areas and uses of social media, and new social-media apps are continually being developed and adopted. Therefore, to help and protect your child, engage in ongoing and honest conversations with your child.

Additional Resources

APA Health Advisory on Social Media Use In Adolescence


This offers a more in depth look at the APA findings and guidance mentioned above. The web page provides the key findings of the study and a detailed list of 10 recommendations for adolescent social-media usage.

Healthychildren.org- Family Media Plan


The Family Media Plan is a robust tool that helps families clearly establish expectations of media usage. Topics covered include agreed upon amount of screen time usage, how privacy will be managed, and expected online behavior.

Online Safety Fact Sheet


This resource provides parents and caregivers with an explanation of some of the negative impacts social-media usage can have on adolescents. It also provides platform-specific strategies and advice for parents regarding teen social-media use.

Stopbullying.gov- Cyberbullying


Stopbullying.gov is a federal website that is provided and curated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The website offers several resources and information regarding bullying and cyberbullying. The cyberbullying portion of the website provides parents, caregivers, teachers, and individuals who interact with youth topics for discussion and strategies and tools that can be used to help reduce cyberbullying.


American Psychological Association. (2023, May 9). APA panel issues recommendations for adolescent social media use. Press Releases. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2023/05/adolescent-social-media-use-recommendations

Beyens, I., Pouwels, J. L., van Driel, I. I., Keijsers, L., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2020). The effect of social media on well-being differs from adolescent to adolescent. Scientific Reports10(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-67727-7

Kim E. S., Hong, Y. J., Kim, M., Kim, E. J. & Kim, J. J. (2019).  Relationship between self-esteem and self-consciousness in adolescents: An eye-tracking study. Psychiatry Investigation, 16(4), 306-313. https://doi.org/10.30773/pi.2019.02.10.3

Mayo Clinic. (2022, February 26). Teens and social media use: What’s the impact? Tween and teen health. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/teens-and-social-media-use/art-20474437#:~:text=A%202018%20Pew%20Research%20Center,%2C%20Facebook%2C%20Instagram%20or%20Snapchat.

Parris, L., Lannin, D. G., Hynes, K., & Yazedjian, A. (2022). Exploring social media rumination: Associations with bullying, cyberbullying, and distress. Journal of Interpersonal Violence37(5-6).

Polanco-Levicán, K., & Salvo-Garrido, S. (2022). Understanding social media literacy: A systematic review of the concept and its competences. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,19(14). https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fijerph19148807

Shah, J., Das, P., Muthiah, N., & Milanaik, R. (2019). New age technology and social media: Adolescent psychosocial implications and the need for protective measures. Current Opinion in Pediatrics31(1), 148-156. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/MOP.0000000000000714

Uhls, Y. T., Ellison, N. B., & Subrahmanyam, K. (2017). Benefits and costs of social media in adolescence. Pediatrics140(Supp 2), S67-S70. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-1758E

Internet Safety for Parents

Internet safety should be considered seriously. Children have access to information, videos, pictures – the list is long – through the internet. Information is easily accessible, and personal information is shared frivolously and dangerously. As a parent, you need to understand how to educate and protect yourself and your children. There are internet safety laws in place to add a layer of protection for your children under the age of 13.

Internet Safety Laws

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) helps protect children younger than 13 and is designed to keep anyone from getting a child’s personal information without a parent’s knowledge or consent (Ben-Joseph, 2018).

Online Protection Tools

Many internet service providers have available software that assists in blocking sites and restricts personal information from being sent online.

Here are some free parental control software programs for you to examine.

  • Qustodio
  • OpenDNS FamilySheild
  • KidLogger
  • Kaspersky Safe Kids

Streaming services like Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV have parental controls built into them. Gaming services like PlayStation and Xbox have parental control options also (Ellis, 2020).

Getting Involved in Kids’ Online Activities

Teach your children safe and responsible online behavior by exploring the internet with them. You don’t have to literally look over their shoulder to monitor your children’s internet usage. Create your own social media accounts, and follow your children to keep tabs on what they are posting and who they are communicating with online.

Share these basic guidelines for online safety with your children.

  • Never post or trade personal pictures
  • Never reveal personal information, such as address, phone number, or school name or location
  • Use your screenname only, and don’t share passwords
  • Never agree to meet in person or online without parental consent or supervision
  • Never respond to threatening messages or posts
  • Always tell a parent or trusted adult about any communication or conversation that was scary or hurtful

Remember these basic guidelines for parental supervision.

  • Keep the computer in a common area where you can watch and monitor who uses it
  • Monitor time spent on smartphones or tablets
  • Bookmark kids’ favorite sites for easy access
  • Check credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar charges
  • Find and learn about the online protection offered by your child’s school, after-school care, friends’ homes, or any place where your child could use a computer without your supervision
  • Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange

The Internet and Teens

Teenagers want – and need – some privacy. They may carry smartphones with them and have access to the internet at all times. Keep having the same conversations with your teens about passwords, staying safe online, and being careful about sharing personal information.

The internet can also provide a safe, virtual, environment for your teens to explore and have the freedom to do so. Not everything about the internet is ominous and scary. It can be helpful in learning and acquiring knowledge. It can be helpful in connecting with friends and family who are all over the world. It can be a place where your children can express their thoughts and ideas through informational websites, such as blogs. Starting internet safety conversations at a young age can increase your children’s online awareness and engagement in safe behaviors (Dredge, 2014).



Dredge, S. (2014, August 11). How do I keep my children safe online? What the security experts tell their kids. Children’s tech. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/aug/11/how-to-keep-kids-safe-online-children-advice

Joeseph, E. (2018, April). Internet safety. Kids Health. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/net-safety.html

Techradar. (2020). The best free parental control software and apps 2020. https://www.techradar.com/best/parental-control

Social Media and Self-Esteem

The creation of social media sites and applications has changed the ways in which people interact, connect, and share with one another. Perhaps children and adolescents are the most affected by these technological advancements. Teens and pre-teens are among the highest consumers of social media. As the number of social media sites and apps increases, children and adolescents increase their usage (Anderson, 2018). So, questions arise regarding social media usage such as can too much time spent on social media impact the way children see themselves?  Can social media usage affect a youth’s self-esteem?

Social media can be positive and negative. It’s positive for children to use social media as this platform allows them to share interests or posts about their favorite sports, celebrities, artists, and talents with a diverse group of like-minded individuals. However, social media can be negative if children are using social media as a measure of their likability or popularity (Koutamanis, 2015). Parents need to remember that even though technologies are quickly changing, the developmental needs of children remain the same (Orth, 2018).

Research has demonstrated an individual’s ability to verbalize a sense of his or her overall worth as a person emerges around the age of 8, which suggests that this time period is very crucial in the development of self-esteem (Orth, 2018). During this stage, children begin to discover their abilities and characteristics and begin their evolution into being known by and identifying with what they have discovered about themselves. Children in mid to late childhood (i.e., ages 8 to 10 years old) are able to understand that success in domains of personal importance promotes high self-esteem, whereas failure in these domains undermines their sense of competence and takes a toll on self-esteem (Orth, 2018).

As children emerge into late childhood and early adolescence, parental approval continues to affect self-esteem, but it is not as influential as peer approval (Erol, 2011). During adolescence (i.e., ages 11-19 years old), youth are undergoing the process of identity development, and self-esteem is an important part of this development. During this developmental period, adolescents’ self-esteem is likely to be affected by the feedback they receive online through social media sites (Burrows, 2017). Teens describe social media platforms as a key tool for connecting and maintaining relationships, being creative, and learning more about other cultures and diverse peoples. Clearly, in these ways, social media usage can be a positive experience; however, youth are also exposed to the negative aspects of social media use, such as drama and bullying or feeling pressure to present themselves in a certain way (Anderson, 2018). Furthermore, adolescents tend to over interpret or misjudge the extent to which others are evaluating them, which can lead to a preoccupation with how they look in the eyes of others (Valkenburg, 2016). Positive feedback received online has been shown to enhance self-esteem, and negative feedback has been shown to have the reverse effect (Valkenburg, 2017).

Positive impacts on self-esteem can occur through interactions via social media if adolescents feel a sense of connectedness and support, but some experiences online may have a negative impact on self-esteem. The negative impact is not always caused by cyberbullying or a negative comment. When a child does not receive the expected or desired feedback or feels a sense of pressure to “perform” or post content, the right content, for “friends,” this pressure or stress can cause anxiety and will probably negatively affect a child’s self-esteem.

Today, parents must find a balance between mitigating the negative risks to their adolescent’s self-esteem that can happen when engaging in social media and allowing their youth to engage on social platforms. Realizing and enforcing this balance can lead to arguments or a parent’s guilt about his or her child being the outcast or “left behind” socially because he or she is not allowed to be on social media constantly.

Awareness of how much time your child spends on social media and the level of importance he or she places on social media interactions can be a telling factor into how these interactions are affecting your child’s self-esteem (Brewer, 2015). Social media’s negative effects on children may promote unhealthy behaviors like becoming isolated or irritable or experiencing a drop in grades or loss of interest in activities (Verduyn, 2017). To address these adverse effects and help their child develop social skills, parents could foster a sense of purpose through encouraging their child to engage in volunteering, sports, creative arts, clubs, or other in-person activities.

Parents are their children’s first teachers and understanding how to promote your child’s positive online interactions and build your child’s self-esteem can be done by modeling those behaviors. For example, parents may want to carefully consider if they want to post pictures of their child on social media and may want to think about the content of the photos. A “cute” picture of your child taking a bath may be embarrassing to your child. Model ethical behavior, ask permission from your children before posting online pictures or activities that involve them, and teach your children to respect the privacy of others.



Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens, social media & technology 2018. Pew Research. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/

Brewer, G., & Kerslake, J. (2015). Cyberbullying, self-esteem, empathy and loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior,48, 255–260. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.01.073

Burrows, A.L., & Rainone, N. (2017). How many likes did I get? Purpose moderate’s links between positive social media feedback and self-esteem. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,69, 232–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2016.09.005

Erol, R. Y., & Orth, U. (2011). Self-esteem development from age 14 to 30 years: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(3),607–619. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024299

Koutamanis, M., Voosen, H. G., & Valkenburg, P. (2015). Adolescents’ comments in social media: Why do adolescents receive negative feedback and who is most at risk? Computers in Human Behavior, 53, 486–494. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.07.016

Orth, U., Erol Y., & Luciano, C. (2018). Development of self-esteem from age 4 to 94 years: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 144, 1045-1080. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000161

Valkenburg, M., Koutamanis, M., & Vossen, H.G. (2017). The concurrent and longitudinal relationship between adolescents’ use of social network sites and their social self-esteem. Computers in Human Behavior,76, 35–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.07.008

Valkenburg, M., Peter, J., & Walther, J. B. (2016). Media effects: Theory and research. Annual Review of Psychology,67, 315–338. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-pscyh-122414-033608

Verduyn, P., Ybarry, O., Résibois, M., Jonides, J., & Kross, E. (2017). Do social network sites enhance or undermine subjective well-being? A critical review. Social Issues and Policy Review,11(1), 274–302. https://doi.org/10.1111/sipr.12033


Managing Screen Time During COVID-19

As a result of COVID-19, the use of electronic devices for learning, connecting, and recreating has increased greatly. With this increase, families may be concerned about how much screen time is too much screen time for their children. Keep it simple. Remember, screen time management during COVID-19 is more about quality and less about quantity.

As we navigate our new normal, guidelines exist to offer direction for all aspects of our lives, including recommendations for screen time management. These parameters highlight the importance of quality over quantity. Screens can be used for nearly every daily task, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified that use. We are faced with a new reality where most of what we do, and what our children do, involves some kind of screen time.

Consider how much of what you do involves screen time now versus before the pandemic. You are able to purchase necessary items, like food, cleaning supplies, and clothing, online; communicate with friends and family through video chats; and attend a virtual tele-health visit with medical providers. While screen time use was expected to increase and has escalated during the pandemic, it is the way in which screen time is used that matters the most. For children, low-quality screen time or recreational screen time should still be limited. Below are some tips to help ensure quality screen time use even though the quantity has increased.

Quality versus Quantity tips during COVID-19 

Not all screen time use is equal.

Quality screen time includes video calling to connect with friends and family. If the screen time is spent doing activities that would have been done in person before COVID-19, then the activity does not count as recreational screen time. Playing video games without educational content is an example of recreational screen time with low quality.

Incorporate physical activity.

Engaging in physical activity is very important and can be incorporated into quality screen time through the use of specific apps. Many apps are free and available for children to use to increase their activity levels.

Create personal space.

Use screen time to create personal space in your home. You may have taken on the roles of school teacher, child care worker, full-time employee, and homemaker – at the same time. Let your child watch a favorite movie if you are busy with work or other activities in which your child cannot participate. Just remember to aim for 2 hours or less a day of low-quality recreational screen time.

Plan ahead.

Find apps, games, and videos that your child can safely do by himself or herself. Add these to your daily routine. Think of educational screen time as a new platform for learning.

Safety first.

Manage your children’s safety settings and parental permissions. Keep all devices centrally located to keep track of use. Have children return devices to the central location after they are finished with their activity.

Develop a family media plan.

Create a family media plan to ensure quality over quantity. Visit HealthyChildren.org to create a customized online family media plan (Spanish option available).


Additional Resources: 

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. (2020). Tips for working at home with kidshttps://thrive.psu.edu/blog/tips-for-working-at-home-with-kids/

Unicef Kid Power. (2020). Best apps for keeping kids active. https://www.unicefkidpower.org/best-apps-for-keeping-kids-active/



American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020, April 20). Parenting during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Advice from psychologists on the best ways to cope with the new way of life—and the new stressors—caused by the global health crisis. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/parenting-during-pandemic

Nagata, J., Abdel Magid, H., & Gabriel, K. (Accepted/In Press). Screen time for children and adolescents during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Obesity. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22917

Too much screen time?

Having the use of screens, computers, smartphones, and tablets, just to name a few, has given individuals the ability to be anywhere at any moment and allowed people to live in a global community. Video chatting, social networks, and the internet have changed the way we interact with each other and the way children learn. Technology is commonplace in educational settings and sometimes even necessary for learning and homework completion. Despite the need for children to be competent technology users in order to learn, there can be health risks and impeded learning as a result of screen overuse, specifically when screens are used for recreational purposes.

Excessive screen time has been associated with a variety of concerns for children, such as obesity, mood swings, and aggressive behavior, and has been found to negatively impact attention span and language and cognitive development (Carson & Janssen, 2012). Children ages 4 to 6 years old who spent more time on screen-based activities showed lower emotional understanding ability (Skalická, Wold Hygen, Stenseng, Kårstad, & Wichstrøm, 2019) and an increased risk of expressive speech delay (Livingstone & Franklin, 2018) because they lacked face-to-face interaction. One component of screen time is artificial light. Over exposure to light, especially artificial light from screens, can have a great effect on circadian rhythm, which is a normal, biological process that regulates one’s sleep-wake cycles. Moreover, artificial light, such as from self-luminous tablets, can cause significant melatonin suppression (i.e., melatonin is a hormone that signals the body that it is time for sleep) after only 2 hours of use (Hale & Guan, 2015).  Please find below additional negative effects that can result from too much recreational screen time (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2016; American Health Institute, 2019).

  • Irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Loss of social skills
  • Violence
  • Less time for play

So, what can parents can do to ensure age-appropriate screen time behaviors?

  1. Avoid screen exposure for children younger than 18 months.
  2. Watch high-quality television programming with your children so you can help interpret the content.
  3. Limit recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day.
  4. Create healthy relationships with screens as a family – be good digital role models.



American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). American Academy of Pediatrics announces new recommendations for children’s media use. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx

American Health Institute. (2019). Screen time and children. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000355.htm

Carson, V., & Janssen, I. (2012). Associations between factors within the home setting and screen time among children aged 0-5 years: A cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 12(1), 1.

Hale, L., & Guan, S. (2015). Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: A systematic literature review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 21(2015), 50–58.

Livingstone, S., & Franklin, K. (2018). Families with young children and ‘screen time’ advice. Journal of Health Visiting, 6(9), 434–439.

Skalická, V., Wold Hygen, B., Stenseng, F., Kårstad, S. B., & Wichstrøm, L. (2019). Screen time and the development of emotion understanding from age 4 to age 8: A community study. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1–17.

Fruits and Vegetables Month

Food can be fun! Colorful fruits and vegetables are a great way to add brightness to your plate and entice your taste buds. You can find a variety of fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. Visiting your local farmers’ markets can be an exciting family outing! You can gather fresh ingredients and colorful fruits and vegetables, and, best of all, it’s something you can do together.

Get your kids involved! Your children may want to help make decisions about what goes on their plates. While in the produce section at the grocery store, help them explore the different fruits and vegetable options. A fun activity could be to pick produce that creates all the colors in the rainbow!

Not only can fruits and vegetables add color and create fun family activities, but they offer many health benefits including lowering cardiovascular disease risk (Bondonno, Bondonno, Ward, Hodgson, & Croft, 2017; Lassale et al., 2016), protecting the body against oxidative stress (Brookie, Best, & Conner, 2018), decreasing mental health disorders (Brookie et al., 2018), promoting nutrient absorption, and acting as anti-obesity agents (Pem & Jeewon, 2015).

As autumn approaches, here are some seasonal favorites you may like to try at home!

Research indicates that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day will provide the greatest health benefits.

Do your part, live a longer life, and establish healthy life-long habits for your kids!



Bondonno, N. P., Bondonno, C. P., Ward, N. C., Hodgson, J. M., & Croft, K. D. (2017). The cardiovascular health benefits of apples: Whole fruit vs. isolated compounds. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 69, 243–256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2017.04.012

Brookie, K. L., Best, G. I., & Conner, T. S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(APR), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00487

Lassale, C., Castetbon, K., Laporte, F., Deschamps, V., Vernay, M., Camilleri, G. M., … Kesse-Guyot, E. (2016). Correlations between fruit, vegetables, fish, vitamins, and fatty acids estimated by web-based nonconsecutive dietary records and respective biomarkers of nutritional status. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 427-438.e5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.09.017

Pem, D., & Jeewon, R. (2015). Fruit and vegetable intake: Benefits and progress of nutrition education interventions- Narrative review article. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 44(10), 1309–1321.


Effects of Social Media Use on Teenagers

Teenagers on media devicesThe adolescent stage of development can be defined by change or transformation. As early as age 11, parents may start to notice physical, developmental, emotional, and social changes in their pre-teen. Emotional ups and downs, a push for independence, new friend groups, and academic pressures are common experiences among adolescents. In today’s technological world, an adolescents’ perpetual  access to social media impacts their lives in positive and negative ways, and research is proceeding to determine how youth are being impacted.

In the world of research, studying the effects of social media use on adolescents is relatively new.  Brain development, mental health concerns, social issues, and other factors are areas of interest for future research.

One possible benefit of social media is connecting people to each other. For young people, friends and feeling they fit in with others of a similar age and interests are high priorities, and social media allows people to connect any time anywhere. Teens who may struggle in face-to-face situations and interactions, or who are from a marginalized group, may find comfort in communicating through social media outlets. Adolescents can enjoy sharing a common hobby or special ability with a specialized social media group.

Research also shows concerning effects of social media use on young people. The amount of time adolescents spend on social media is something parents should monitor. The act of sitting and scrolling through media can significantly impact the amount of physical activity or face-to-face conversation in which a teen engages. In addition, the content young people are viewing on social media (e.g., violence, cyberbullying) and how it is internalized (e.g., treatment of others, self-worth) can be troublesome.

There are times in face-to-face interactions when adolescents often find it difficult to manage rejection or negative interactions. This same phenomenon happens with social media and can create distress for young people. Youth may experience negative interactions on social media, for example a post may not be “liked” enough, there may be a lapse in response times, or they may be involved in sexting or cyberbullying. These negative interactions can impact adolescent mental health. Loss of sleep, feelings of hopelessness, negative thoughts, and friendship challenges are some of the negative outcomes associated with youth social media use.

Parents and caregivers are role models for social media use and are in a position to set rules and guidelines to help support young people as they navigate the world of social media. Review the resources below for more information and guidance about how to have conversations with your teens about social media use. Start the conversation today; it’s an important one!

Resources for parents:





Healthy 5210 Lunches for Back-to-School

Back-to-school means adding that extra step of preparing lunches for the school day. Remember the daily dose of at least 5 fruits and vegetables and 0 sweetened beverages when packing school lunches, and try to include a variety of healthy options.

If your kids are picky eaters, try these ideas to help kids eat healthy:

  • Get kids involved and have them help make and pack lunch foods.
  • Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of foods like sandwiches, deli meat, and cheeses.
  • Use wraps and fill them with tuna, chicken, or even veggies to make fun roll-ups.
  • Include fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries and granola or bran flakes to sprinkle on top of yogurt.
  • Pack individualized items for kids to make their own meals, for example taco fillers, veggie tortilla pizzas, chips and bean salsa, and cracker stackers.
  • Include low-fat dips, like hummus, for vegetables.

If your mornings are rushed, try these ideas to save time:

  • Use dinner leftovers!
  • Pack the night before to save time in the morning.
  • Buy fruits that don’t require manipulation, like bananas, apples, pears, and oranges.
  • Pre-make and cut foods, like hard boiled eggs, carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, cauliflower, and tomatoes for easy grab and go options.
  • Make stackable foods in containers for the next day – or even the week – for example, salads and yogurt parfaits.


Additional Resources:

Back-to-School Healthy Lunch Ideas: http://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/back-to-school-healthy-lunch-ideas—by-devin-alexander