It’s a question we get often from parents – and for good reason.
For many adults, going online and visiting social media sites is simply about checking in with our relatives a few states away, sharing some cute pictures of our own children or connecting with a childhood friend.
The impact of social media on our young people can be far greater, however. For many tweens and teens, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram bring the stresses of school and peer pressure right to their smartphones and home computers. The virtual world makes it easy for them to compare themselves with their peers, leading some to wrestle with body image issues and even eating disorders.
Social media sites are also a place where some young people endure cruel comments and bullying from classmates.
What’s a parent to do?
For starters, our counselors here at Focus always encourage parents to work at forging a close relationship with their child. A loving bond will survive the ups and downs that accompany the teenage years.
Secondly, we advise parents to be involved with their child’s social media use. Yes, that definitely means monitoring. However, it also includes asking questions that will help you engage your tween or teen – “Could you help me understand Tumblr?” or “What do your friends think about Facebook?”
Questions can also prompt them to connect the dots to how their online use impacts their faith: “How does this help you with your walk with Christ?” or “Is this something that helps you be who God wants you to be?”
In addition to keeping open conversation about social media use, a third tip is to involve your teen in creating the do’s and don’ts that ultimately must be put in place. By including them in this process, you are teaching your child how to make good decisions. And yes, I understand that this process might seem more cumbersome. However, we’ve found that working now with your teen on creating sensible guidelines will help you avoid power struggles later – it teaches children that their parents are partners in processing through issues.
As with all things, there is no foolproof way to guarantee your child will make wise decisions at every turn. This is why we turn to our Dad – our Heavenly Father – and pray for His grace to cover and protect our kids.
Our website has more advice on staying on top of your teen’s technology. If you want to speak with one of our family-help specialists, you can contact us at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
So those are some general guidelines. I’m interested to hear from you. How have you navigated your child’s social media use? I’d love to hear your story – the good, the bad or the ugly!