A few years ago, we got our teenager her first phone…well, actually it was my hand me down when I upgraded, but you get the picture. Fast forward to present day, and our teenager is pretty darn savvy when it comes to all of the apps out there. If she’s not facetiming with one of her friends, then she’s checking Twitter, Snapchat, or on YouNow.
But at what point does all of that social media interfere with real life? Teenagers are heavy users of social media. Roughly 75 percent of teens have a profile on at least one social media platform. When I was growing up, I didn’t have all of these extra outside influences when it came to peer pressure or beauty standards. Now teens worry over things like “Did I take a good selfie?” and “I hope I get a lot of ‘likes’ on that picture.” The pressure to fit in is even worse now than it was in the past.
Although social media can offer many educational opportunities, it can also be very dangerous for teens. Establishing rules about social media help to keep your teen emotionally and physically safe.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure your child is using social media responsibly:
- Set a limit. Put limits on how much computer and phone time your child is allowed. Expect some resistance.
- Be a positive role model for your child. If you are always on the phone or computer, most likely your child will mirror what you are doing. Set aside time when all electronic devices are turned off. (Meal times and the hour before bedtime are good ideas.)
- If your teenager displays any of the following behaviors, it’s time to intervene:
- Stops engaging in other activities
- Becomes isolated
- Stays up all night staring at a screen
- Becomes agitated when access is denied
- Get the password and user names for all of the social media outlets that your child uses. There will definitely be a power struggle over this. It is in your children’s best interest, however, to have parents spot-check their social media accounts periodically to see what they are posting and who they are following and with whom they are communicating.
- Teach your child never to share any personal information over the Internet. Their address, phone number, and inappropriate pictures should be obviously off limits information. (Filling them in on what you consider personal information is a good idea too…remember that kids and teens don’t always think through consequences. They may not think sharing the name of their high school endangers them in any way, for example.) Your child may have good intentions, but the person on the other end may not be who or what they portray themselves to be online.
- Remind your child that everything they post online is there forever. Even if they delete it, there’s a record. A child may post something while they are upset. If they don’t want anyone to read or see something, they shouldn’t post it. Colleges and potential employers look at social media accounts.
Remember to always be open with your kids and discuss issues before they become bigger problems!