5 Expert Tips for Managing Your Kids’ Social Media Use

Social media is now an essential fiber in the thread of most adolescents’ social life. Kids and teens use social media everywhere. They use it at home, on the road, and even at baseball games. Although it is impossible to be absolutely certain that your kids are free from social threats on their social sites, parents can take some small and simple steps to secure some online safety for their kids and peace of mind for themselves.

One of the leading experts in teen social media use, Marion K. Underwood, visited BYU campus two weeks ago to present her findings on the subject. She suggests that parents:

Follow Their Kids

If you don’t have a social media account, get one! Your children can benefit from knowing that you will see what things they post, and some of what will be shared with them. Being your child’s friend and follower is a simple way to stay aware of what they experience, and even show you care.

Also, make sure to be more than a passive observer of social media content. Participate! Post, like, and comment on different material. Being a more active participant in social media will help you understand where your child is coming from. Dr. Underwood, as she received likes and responses to her personal social media content, recounted, “I was amazed at how thrilled I was.” She now has a better understanding of what her children feel as they participate in social media conversations.

Experiences like these will help you to empathize with your child. “By creating your own account and joining these platforms,” says Underwood, “You will understand the power of digital communication in a way you never thought possible.”


Take Away Phones at Night

“85% of the students in [our] study said they slept with their [phones] under their pillows so they could hear an incoming text message in the middle of the night. Disruption in sleep is terrible for adolescents,” said Underwood.

Further, when teens are alone in their rooms, they are more likely to subject themselves to negative content, which is widely available on all platforms. Making this quick rule will lessen the likelihood of teens dwelling on negative messages.


Set Specific Guidelines for Specific Situations

“I think we all need to structure our homes and our children’s time to avoid over-involvement with social media,” says Underwood. She suggests at least two ideas:

  • No phones during meals.

“[This includes] family meals at home, at restaurants, that includes parents – everybody has to put their phones away.”

  • No phones in the car.

“A rule that I had when I would miss my work time to drive children around in carpools was ‘no phones in the car,’ said Underwood. “If I’m spending my time to take my young ladies places, I wanted them to converse with me. So I would say, you’re not going to look at your phone . You’re going to talk about your day. And every family can come up with their own set of guidelines.”

Further, children and teens are capable of doing a lot of good on their various platforms. Encouraging children to engage in pro-social behavior on social media can be beneficial to overall mental health and well-being.

Setting these kinds of boundaries doesn’t absolutely assure that your home’s parent-child interaction will be full of green pastures, but it does mean that family stability will more easily prevail over the outside social world.


Talk Openly

Social media is a big deal to your kids. “Online experiences [are] vitally important to…students,” Underwood said. “When we asked them what was more important, their offline social experiences or their online experiences, they said online social experiences were more important in their lives.”

“I’m not a big fan of monitoring software,” says Underwood, “Young people are very smart about how to get around it and platforms change all the time. Our best hope of influencing their online conduct – their online experience, is to use our relationships to discuss with them.”

Invite Children to Help 

Children and teens can help you to help them. Dana Boyd, author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens wrote: “What makes the digital street safe is when teens and adults collectively agree to open their eyes and pay attention, communicate, and collaboratively negotiate difficult situations.”


“Teens need the freedom to wander the digital street, but they also need to know that caring adults are behind them and supporting them wherever they go.”

You can have a positive influence on your children. It is never too late to begin implementing guidelines for a positive social media experience.

You can view Dr. Underwood’s full lecture here:



What guidelines do you have in YOUR home for social media use?

What do you Really Know About Divorce?


In our previous post about married couples considering divorce, we shared some of the findings of a recent study headed by professor Alan J. Hawkins of BYU’s School of Family Life.

A quick re-cap might be useful for you:






The findings from this study have broken ground for a new foundation for marriage relational studies. Before its publication, we knew that divorces were relatively common. What we didn’t know is what people were thinking as they considered divorce. This new study finally shows how many married people have THOUGHT about divorce – and what they were thinking.

This is one of the first real examples of SFL’s new initiative to get their findings into the public sphere. They are beginning to gravitate toward a public scholarship approach – making things learned from their scholarship accessible to the general public. The School of Family Life has even hired a professional communications company to help them get the word out.

“We hope to use this same process for a variety of our projects,” says Dean Busby, director of BYU’s School of Family Life. The school has begun to approach their scholarship in this way in order to “speak not only to [their] professional audiences, but also to the public,” says Busby. Over the next few years, several journal articles will be published from the data. And several additional public reports will likely be produced as well.


Reaching Out 

The School of Family Life has a deep well of knowledge gained from exceptional scholarship that can improve the lives of individuals and families. But it is difficult to get their insight to take root in the minds of people that are constantly overrun by weeds of distracting, if not harmful, bits of random information found in the online world. So the School of Family life is taking a modified approach to their scholarship.

In the public sphere, bloggers and social media users are unlikely to be taking the time to sift through scores of pages found in scholarly journals to find the best advice for their families and marriages. They are more likely to learn from scholarship if it comes in a less intimidating and more understandable form, with titles such as: Are Your Divorce Fantasies Normal? And will hopefully be able to be shared via social media and other outlets, to bring important scholarship closer to home.

Where do you go for advice for your marriage?

BYU Chicano Scholar Opens Up About His Spiritual Journey

The first 25 years of Ignacio Garcia’s existence comes to life on paper with the publication of “Chicano While Mormon: Activism, War, and Keeping the Faith.” In his deeply personal memoir, Brigham Young University professor Ignacio Garcia writes about his activist past, combat experience, and navigating the Mormon faith with his Latin roots. For those incredibly vexing years, Garcia was involved in civil rights, went to war for his country, and came to grips with the difficulties of being a Mormon of color.


Garcia says his book was intended to talk about his civil rights activist history and also talk about how he dealt with his faith. He believes his book, among other purposes, will contribute to the current conversation about race and invite more dialogue. “There is a much more diverse Mormon world out there. This was a way for me to say it. I really enjoyed it writing the book,” he says.

Memoirs from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints written by people of color are rare. Garcia says he attempted to not only write a story about his experience within Mormon culture but beyond the four walls of Mormonism. “My memoir is about living Mormonism outside of a bubble, both in the army, the civil rights [movement], and college. It was about how complicated that can be,” Garcia explains. He talks about his struggle to get Chicano scholars and Chicano activists to see him as one of them, as opposed to being a Mormon, and to get Mormons see him as one of them because he is a Chicano scholar. “That navigation has never given me an uncomplicated space because mine has not had the privilege of being in that safe space.”

On Matters of Faith

Part of the reason why the book title includes “keeping the faith” is because Chicano says he has had to keep the faith in all phases of his life, not just as an army member and activist. “I had to keep the faith not only in my religion but in my humanity and my faith as a person of color in American society and the struggles that that in itself brings up that we are always outside the mainstream. All of this, plus me being a Mormon of color, added a huge complication,” Garcia says.

Irrespective of personal backgrounds, Garcia’s book offers something for even a casual reader. He says that individuals, whether or not they are Latino will see something they have dealt with. Readers will be surprised to realize that there are many Latter-day Saints like him “who grew up in different circumstances and had to call upon the purity of the idea and the message rather than the nicely-packaged Mormonism (which is comfortable and is embracing). We would rather have it that way, but not all of us were born in this reality,” Garcia says.

Latino, Male, or Mormon?

Garcia has many labels: Hispanic, Mormon, scholar, educator, and husband, to name a few. His response is that you can’t necessarily separate those things. “There are things that I don’t embrace of my Latino heritage but there are some things of Mormonism as a cultural manifestation (apart from the social aside from the gospel) that I have not embraced.”

In some ways you can’t separate who you are, Garcia says, but you can reject things within what you are that you don’t find in line with, for example, the gospel and that sometimes means stepping outside of our cultural bubble. “The gospel of Jesus Christ that we live in is bigger than Mormonism, liberalism, conservatism, or bigger than politics or gender,” Garcia says. “We see life and the gospel through the filter we are: color or gender, because the gospel helps us navigate the world we find ourselves in, not the one we create, but in the image and reality of who we are.”

You can read more about Garcia’s memoir here.

Research and Refreshments at FHSS 3-Minute Thesis Competition

If you’re looking for student scholarship at its finest, we’ve got the event for you.

To promote excellence in research and scholarship, BYU’s Graduate Student Society hosts an annual 3-Minute Thesis  competition.  The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences will be holding a preliminary round of presentations for its own graduate students on March 1st.

What is 3-Minute Thesis?

191_3mt edit2.jpgThe 3-Minute Thesis competition is an event for graduate students, university faculty, and anyone interested in the growth and progress of scholarship. Students participating in 3MT have three minutes to give a presentation based on their thesis.  Of course, three minutes is not enough time to present an entire thesis, so there is only time for the essentials. The challenge to the students is to present their research in a way that anyone can understand.

The top 2 presentations from FHSS will receive $500 and move on to the university 3MT competition on March 10th to compete for prizes of up to $5,000.

Winners of the university competition will receive:

  • 1st place: $5,000
  • 2nd place: $2,500
  • 3rd place: $1,500
  • People’s choice: $1,000.

Go ahead and take a look at last year’s winners.

All are welcome to attend.

Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student, you are welcome to attend the competition. This is a great opportunity for you to be a part of the FHSS college’s ever-expanding scholarly influence. And, if you’re a student, it may inspire ideas for your own research. So come support our graduate students, and learn about the interesting research that is taking place at BYU!

For more information on 3-minute thesis, you can visit their website. You can also find video examples of past 3MT presentations here.


Tuesday, March 1

7:30 pm


Refreshments will be served!

What do you enjoy most about research? How about refreshments?

Is Anxiety Worse in Autistic People? Dr. South’s Study Says Yes.

Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Feeling anxious from time-to-time is a normal part of life, but many people feel excessive and persistent anxiety stemming from a variety of different things. Anxiety is a symptom particularly seen in people with autism. “Not all people with autism suffer from anxiety, but it is probably the highest occurring associated psychiatric problem,” said Dr. Mikle South, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University.

South was one of several presenters at the second Autism Translational Research Workshop held on BYU campus in January. The purpose of the workshop was to give researchers an opportunity to present their new findings in autism practices and interventions.  The findings at this year’s conference were devoted to “things you can do every day to help your patients, students, and children be more successful.” South has conducted extensive research on the frequent correlation of anxiety and autism. Whether you or someone you know has autism, anxiety, or both, there is much to be learned from his research.

Lets Talk About the Brain


The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure in the frontal portion of the temporal lobe. It is the central fear recognition system in the brain. South explained that its job to ask “is this safe or not?” It then sends information to other key brain areas. The frontal cortex helps us dissolve fear. Seeing a scary shadow may cause a quick onslaught of fear, but once you realize that it is just coming from a coat rack, the fear should naturally subside. South explained that if this system is not in balance, as is often seen in people with autism, an immediate threat is not comforted or rationalized and the fear continues.

Sensory Processing Difficulties

Another reason for excessive anxiety may be linked to sensory processing difficulties. South explained that when the brain has to focus on dealing with overwhelming surroundings and is not paying attention to social cues, it can lead to a continuous state of uncertainty. With that comes anxiety. “None of us like not knowing what’s going to happen next, but for some people this is really really problematic,” said South. “So we wonder why people with autism like things the same over and over again – and it might just be that it decreases the level of uncertainty, which might decrease anxiety.” 

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Emotional Awareness

“One of the causes for anxiety is that we’re not able to figure out our feelings – we’re confused and uncertain – so we are anxious,” said South. He incorporated this thought into some of his research. He wondered: how aware are people with autism of what’s going on inside their bodies? Do they know how they are feeling? 

I saw a child [with autism] a couple of weeks ago, a 10 year old boy, and I said, ‘What makes you feel sad?’ He replied, ‘When my brother is mean to me.’ A few minutes later I asked him, ‘What makes you feel mad?’ and he said, ‘I already told you. When my brother is mean to me.’ And so I said to him, ‘well what do you think is the difference between sad and mad?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, could you tell me?

South was involved in conducting a study that involved both people with and without autism. The participants were asked a variety of questions regarding autism symptoms and their inner emotions. From this study South determined, “There is a really strong correlation that says, the more autism you have, the more anxiety you have.”

Fear of Failure

fearThough it makes us feel weak and vulnerable, we often learn great lessons from our failures. This understanding can be hard for people with autism to grasp and performance anxiety is common. “A lot of our more verbal kids don’t like to fail. So much so that they don’t try stuff if they don’t know that they’re going to get it exactly right,” South said. “Going to school can be very stressful for kids with autism.” 

Fear Conditioning

South and his team actually conducted the first study of its kind that looked at how people with autism learn to feel safe and learn to feel afraid. They included both people with and without autism in their study.

Participants sat in front of a computer. They would periodically see a blue square or a yellow square flash onto the screen. Sometimes a certain colored square would be accompanied by a painless, but startling, puff of air on their neck. South and his team were able to analyze the participant’s brain functions while this was occurring using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans that measured brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow. “We have the brain in a strong magnet where we can sort out different tissues in the brain. One thing we can do is watch oxygen flow in their brain sort of indirectly. So we can see what parts of the brain are working at certain times.”

emotionsThe exercise was meant to produce anxiety and condition the participants to be on their guard. “After a while, when you see the same color of square as the last time you got a puff of air on your neck, you start to think, ‘Oh I might get a puff of air,'” said South.

The puffs would eventually stop coming. This was meant to condition participants to not be afraid anymore. The sequence didn’t work well in people with autism. “They took too long to learn to not be afraid,” South said.

When they analyzed the results of the study, they found that the amygdala was more active in the control group (people without autism) than people in the autism group. Showing amygdala activation is a proper thing to do when there is a threat – the control group should be showing it – but why did they show more activation than the autism group? South believes that this is because people with autism have a hard time understanding when to feel safe and when to feel afraid. 

The control group showed ‘afraid then’ and ‘not afraid then’. The people with autism seem to not be differentiating properly. If you are not sure what to do, what do you feel is the safest bet? Be afraid … They may already be afraid, so a puff of air on their neck isn’t really heightening that fear.


Based on his findings, South introduced several interventions that can help ease anxiety for people with autism. These interventions may also be beneficial for people who do not have autism, but have anxiety.

  • Reduce sensory exposure
  • Increase structure 
  • Simplify expectations
  • Facilitate emotional awareness 

For more information on this workshop please visit http://autism.ce.byu.edu/

What causes you to be afraid or have anxiety? Have you been conditioned to feel this way?

Feature image courtesy of unsplash.com