How Can I Best Oversee My Child’s Social Media Use?

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 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!

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Leave a Comment

Linda Johnston 11 months ago

--This is a big issue. Thanks for addressing it. Head in the sand apporach is not realistic or helpful. I have been  amazed though at how many parents have their heads in the sand over this! It is not realistic or helpful. At a recent parent panel at our church, the panelists were behind the tech times with kids in last years of college and older. Their answers was "don't have it!"  They did get push back but we didn't glean much. So I began to develop my own answers. I finally finished my our list blended with our parenting philosophy in general to fill in a gap and posted it at bushelandapickle.com/.../8-device-savy-usage-management.  There are a few links to help at the end and this is one of them.

We lived overseas for a number years using cells as soon as they came out. With teen kids running around using taxis, bikes and buses, they had their own. They're now adults. Our youngest in MS and HS girls have had them since 6th grade plus other media accounts. We were ahead of most friends when we relocated back here 4 years ago. As a minimum, they use internet for school work and announcements. Technology can be our friend with caution. I am amazed though at how many parents have their heads in the sand over this!

David Sanford More than 1 year ago

Thanks for all Focus on the Family is doing to help parents and children address this HUGE issue.

With three grown and married children, and two teenagers, my wife and I have tackled this head-on with our kids. Renee and I have worked in media and communications for 30+ years, often watching trends jump from overseas to America before parents know what's happening, let alone what to discuss with their family.

For years we've explained to our children that we don't want to set up a ton of rules, but that some rules are essential for us and for them, in that order. One rule is that my computer is always set up facing the rest of the room, so anyone can see what I'm doing anytime. The second rule is that I'm an open book about everything I'm doing online, even on my smart phone. The third rule is that Renee knows all of my passwords, and vice versa. The point? We're modeling what we want our teenagers to do, including sharing all of their passwords with us. At every turn, we seek to model transparency, authenticity, honesty, confess, forgiveness, and grace.

When our 8-year-old is watching funny cat videos on YouTube without permission, and accidentally sees pornography, it's heartbreaking, but he or she needs compassion, love and the assurance that we know that he or she now knows why "with permission" is essential at his or her age.

Repeated rule breaking results in more grace, yet with a loss of privileges to access some or all online content, including social media, for this season. Yes, a teenager can survive such a fast. At times, Renee and I conduct a similar fast, not because we're blowing it, but just to make the point that it's not essential.

Again, thanks for all you and Focus are doing. Keep up the good work!

--David Sanford, Corban University, www.corban.edu

Tiffany Stuart More than 1 year ago

Hi Mr. Daly,

I met you next to baggage claim at the airport last night after a weekend of prayer with my girlfriends (AKA Birds of Pray). We are birds of a feather so we decided to flock together in Florida for an extended weekend of prayer.

Anyway I saw you right away when I boarded the plane and I knew you worked at Focus on the Family. You had a familiar face and I knew you were in a key position, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember your name or position. By the time I saw you again by baggage claim, I remembered your name. So I decided to say hi since I, too, live in Colorado Springs. And I’ve written for Focus several times in the past.

Anyway, today you are still on my heart. Hmm. So as I ask God why, He reminded me of my mission: to pray. I don’t know why God does what He does, but I must obey. Since I have no way of directly contacting you, I’m posting the prayer here. I pray you find joy in knowing you were covered in prayer today.

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Father God, first off I praise Your name, the name above every name. You are high and lifted up. You are powerful and personal and You see so much more than I can see. You see in full, what I see only in part. You know all things about all people. You have a plan beyond what I can even begin to comprehend. You are writing the best love story ever told and we are a part. Yahoo! You will personally see to it that not one heart is left without the knowledge of who You are.

Jesus, You are my King. You are my redeemer and my best friend. Thank You for Your unfailing love. I’m forever changed because You loved me first. Jesus, You are love.

Lord Jesus, we look to You, the author and finisher of our faith, for our daily strength. We praise You for who You are in our lives. You are everything we need. You offer new mercies every morning, thank you. Your grace is always sufficient. What a gift.  

Today, I pause to lift up your precious son, Jim Daly, to You. Thank You for his story of adoption and his heart for children and families. Thank You for giving him a heart for the broken. Thank You for his immediate family, his wife and two sons. Thank You for choosing him as president for Focus on the Family. Jesus, because of who You are, Jim has what it takes to do his job with excellence and passion. When Jim is weak, You are strong. Lord, thank You for Jim’s willingness to work hard for Your namesake. Jim is Your servant whom You have chosen for such a time as this. You alone will complete the good work You have started in Him. He is Your masterpiece.Thank You.

Please strengthen Jim today. Pour out a fresh filling of Your love into his heart. Revive, renew and refresh him. Allow him to get the rest he needs right when he needs it. Give him times of laughter and play. Because as Your children, we need that too.

And as my friends and I prayed all weekend, the prayer of Jabez, I pray that prayer over Jim, his family and over the whole Focus on the Family ministry. Not because it’s a mystical prayer or anything, but because we want to see more of your glory revealed in our lives, in America and in the world.

"Oh, that you would bless Jim, his family and FOTF, and enlarge their territory! Let your hand be with them, and keep them from harm so that they will be free from pain.”

In the powerful and beautiful healing name of Jesus I pray, Amen