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Parents need to talk to teens about social media

Montgomery Area School District recently hosted an important conversation, reported on in Wednesday’s edition of the Sun-Gazette, that we hope all parents will read about.

The conversation examined how and how mcuh social media is consumed by teenagers.

Dr. Kevin Lally of Bloomsburg University discussed the role of social media in bullying, depression and anxiety, specifically.

In examining the pitfalls of social media, one important message to which Lally and others frequently returned is that families need to talk about social media.

“Make sure they can have that open line of communication with you,” Lauren Lesher, of the state police, said. “That’s going to be your biggest line of defense when it comes to cyberbullying.”

While families are the key component of anticipating and rebutting cyberbullying, they cannot be expected to address teens and social media alone.

Schools play a role in helping teens develop healthy habits online. We appreciate that Montgomery Area School District and other educational leaders recognize that and are working to address their role.

The private enterprises that created what we call “social media” also have a role. We hope their executives and administrative and technical staff take that role seriously. It’s also important that voters do not allow some malcontents to tie their hands on exercising their judgment and ownership of their social media platforms due to a wildly-misconstrued understanding of what “free speech” is. Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, among others, deserve the wide latitude in how their platforms — their property — is used that we grant to, say, the Dan Bongino radio show or Fox News or National Review magazine. Just as we should not tolerate demands that the government force Dan Bongino or National Review to offer a microphone or column inches to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders or U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we should not tolerate the government forcing Facebook or Twitter to provide a platform to content it considers to be misinformation or libelous or harmful to teens’ health.

But the front line for steering teens toward healthy uses of social media, of course, remains families. Parents are best-positioned to know what their sons and daughters are doing and what they can handle.

That’s why seminars like the one Montgomery Area School District hosted are important: Equipping parents and families with the information and tools they need to guide teens’ social media usage is a critical step in discouraging unhealthy uses of social media and in discouraging outright addiction to screens.

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