Kids need their grandparents today more than ever. If you doubt it, think about all the ways having a close relationship with your grandkids can help safeguard them from the negative effects of peer pressure and social media.

It seems like just about every week we read about a new study or findings tying increased depression and anxiety among young people to social media use. Our grandkids need safe, reassuring real world relationships.

Communities, media, and government are all failing our grandchildren. Kids are constantly exposed to media in which opinions are presented as facts, pitting people against each other. They are exposed to substance abuse, sexuality, and violence at earlier and earlier ages, often lacking the strong moral foundations that shaped earlier generations.

There’s plenty of evidence pointing to too much screen time and social media use as the cause of the angst felt by kids today. Teen depression and suicide began to increase in 2012, just as smartphone ownership surpassed 50 percent, the Pew Research Center reports. By 2015, 73 percent of teens had access to a smartphone.

Researchers found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71 percent more likely than those who spent only one hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan, or attempting suicide).

Teenage girl using a cell phone

“Even if online time doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online crowds out time for other activities,” said Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and co-author of a recent study.

It’s worth noting that most of these studies focus on solo screen time and social media use. But technology also provides lots of fun, educational, and creative ways for interacting with our grandkids.

Grandmother and granddaughter on Skype

Four fun ways to use technology to interact with your grandchildren:

  • Grandparents who live a long distance from their grandkids talk to them via Skype and share online videos. This is a good alternative to phone calls. The more often you do it, the closer you can stay in touch with what’s going on in their lives.
  • If you get to spend a lot of in-person time with your grandkids, get online together and help them research ideas for creative projects, whether it’s costumes, makeup, dance moves, or a film project. Take them to a library, museum, nature hike, movie, or other fun outing to spur creative ideas.
  • Use the vast positive educational potential of the web to help your grandkids delve into what they love. Sitting side by side with your laptop, you can explore some of the best educational websites for younger kids together, play games, or share funny pet videos, or old TV shows you loved when you were a kid.
  • A phone or Skype call is, as that old Bell Telephone slogan goes, “the next best thing to being there.” The more time you spend together, whether in person, via phone, Skype, or writing old fashioned letters and postcards, the more your grandkids will feel comfortable sharing what’s going on in their lives.

As grandparents, many of us are blessed with the time and resources to make the time we spend with our grandkids true quality time.

Do you have thoughts and tips for how you stay connected and share your love, values and support with the kids you love? Please share them here or in the comments below.