Question for all parents. Would you let your 12-year-old daughter have Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok? I’m trying to be reasonable with my daughter cause I know a lot of her friends have these apps and she’s kinda singled out as one without it. I’m a younger mom at 32. I’m trying to balance not being so old school but also trying to protect her from potential harm, definitely need some advice.

The addiction piece of this is so important! Think of social media for and ALL of a child’s screen use as a “gateway drug” that builds the addiction pathways in the brain (the process through which an artificially high level of dopamine gets released, then gets ‘locked in’ by glutamate and is seen then by the body as essential to survival, hence addiction). This “innocent” and “popular” activity can shift to alcohol, other drugs, sex, sugar, and shopping once the child gains access to those activities, which happens in the teen years. Habits that release an artificially high level of dopamine as compared with activities that release a typical amount of dopamine (being outside, being with friends, reading a book, eating, etc.) fuel addiction. So, early screens, especially for littles, even in the form of “learning apps” can be the precursor for later addiction. Human interaction and off-screen learning and socialization are key to developing empathy, engagement in learning, and more stable mental health for children as they move toward adulthood.