Updated: Aug 14, 2019
Alright, let’s face it. We adults want to be liked, followed, and feel important. It’s in our nature to want positive feedback and to feel connected. Now enter social media. The perfect platform to share our lives through photos and videos where we can receive all the love we need. A “like.” A “heart.” A “wow.” A “haha.” We all crave that feeling of being wanted.
Now give this same platform to a young kid who is still developing their own sense of self-worth, their own social circle, and their own understanding of the world. Kids want to feel validated and cared about just as much as we adults do. However, we have already developed a sense of self-worth and have created a social circle. We also understand the dangers that lurk on the internet and know how to avoid them.
So, what do we do as parents? Do we cave and give our kids a smartphone and let them use whatever social app they please? Do we ban it all completely? Do we allow only one social profile?
If we do allow them to have a social media presence, how do we monitor that use? Sparingly, heavily, or not at all? Well, there isn’t a “silver bullet” answer for everyone… but here are a few tips to help:
1. Build a Strong Loving Relationship with your Kids
This is first and foremost on the list of important things to do. Your kids need to respect you, love you, and acknowledge that you have their best interest in mind (even though you may “suck the fun out of things” at times). Develop a relationship where your children feel comfortable to go to YOU first before they go to their friends and/or social media for answers. With this type of relationship, your kids will come to you with questions/concerns that may arise that can be uncomfortable to talk about. Sex, drugs, and pornography, for example, can be seen all too easily for any unsuspecting child. They will have questions. Make sure they feel comfortable to come to YOU.
2. Educate Yourself
Know what apps the kids are using these days and become familiar with them yourself. Sure, you’ve heard of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tinder, and Snapchat. But have you heard of Music.ly or Live.me? If you have, great! If you haven’t, I bet your pre-teen is on both of those apps quite often… (go research them, like now). Know what each of the apps do and learn the positives and negatives OF EACH ONE so that you can best protect you and your family.
Also, I encourage you to create your own profile to follow your kids on social media in order to see what they are posting. Keep in mind, it’s super easy for anyone to create multiple profiles on one device… You may be following only one of your kids’ accounts without knowing about a “hidden” account.
Lastly, educate yourself on the impact of social media itself. Know the potential risks and benefits so that you can make the best decision for your family. (See the list of articles at the end to learn more)
3. Educate your Kids
Whether you allow your kids to have a smartphone or not, chances are, they may still have a social media profile somewhere. If their friends have a profile, they probably do too. Kids are smart… They can borrow a friends phone, computer, or school computer to make one. Easy peasy. So, at the end of the day, it’s our responsibility as parents to teach our kids how to properly use the internet no matter what website or social media program they use.
Teach your children about the dangers of “predators” (or bad people) and how they may try to manipulate them to do inappropriate things. Teach your children to make their profiles private so the access to their content is restricted to only people they know. Teach your children to only share “clean” and uplifting content to prevent incidents like this one teen who was publicly humiliated and punished for some bad content she posted (and she is now going through tough legal battles).
At the end of the day, there is no cookie-cutter way to teach or control our kids on social media. Most of this is still new, and technology keeps changing every single day. But, we can set ourselves up for success by putting in the work necessary to make sure our families are safe.
What have you done in the past about social media use and your kids?
Resources to Learn More:
American Association of Pediatrics Study on Social Media
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry