Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat… There seems to be no limit to social media options. There’s also no shortage of software and apps to help parents monitor kids’ Internet use. Many of these can be very helpful in your quest to keep your kids safe. Unfortunately, though, oftentimes adolescents (and even younger kids) are more computer savvy than parents. This means they can likely find ways around monitoring software. So, your best weapons against the misuse of social media are knowledge and open communication with your kids.
- Understand that adolescents’ brains are still developing, and their executive functioning is not fully developed until they’re in their mid-twenties. Parents can help kids learn and practice problem-solving and decision-making skills which will aid in building executive functioning.
- Learn about the social media apps your child expresses interest in. Create your own accounts and learn the ins and outs of each platform. Determine which apps are appropriate for your child and which are inappropriate.
- Know that anything posted anywhere (even on Snapchat where posts “disappear”) can be saved and shared by the recipient. Also, even if a post is deleted, it remains out there in “cyberspace.” Set privacy settings to “friends only” but keep these caveats in mind and take the settings with a grain of salt.
- Engage with your teen on and off social media. Get to know their friends and friends’ parents.
- Express interest in your kids’ interests and talk with them about what they’re looking at online. Engage in friendly, curious conversations to encourage openness.
- Set clear expectations of what social media they’re allowed to use, what content is appropriate and what time limits are. Explain your rationale.
- Encourage and set aside specific “screen-free” time. Spend time talking, playing games, sharing hobbies, going on adventures and joking around.
- Discuss and model values that will inform healthy social media use, such as modesty, honesty, integrity and compassion.
- Remind your kids that no matter what their privacy settings are set to, they need to consider everything they post will be public and permanent. This consideration should inform every choice they make on social media: the images they share, the content of posts and comments on others’ posts. Whenever your child is thinking of posting something, they will want to ask themselves, “Would I be okay with anyone and everyone seeing this?”
- Talk with your teen about inappropriate content and let them know they can come to you without fear of judgment if they come across something sketchy.