coping

Strategies for Living with a Teenager on Social Media

Welcome to the Coping Toolkit article on strategies to assist you to manage your teenager's social media use. This is the much shorter and user-friendly version of The One About Teenagers and the Internet. Please add comments regarding any other strategies that have worked for you!

  • Develop a greater understanding of your child's developmental stage. There is a biological need for adolescents to feel they belong to their peer group - connected, approved of, accepted. This is an important stage of development. It's the part that will eventually prepare them to leave the nest and develop into healthy functioning adults. You want this. Trust me!
  • Accept and embrace the concept that social media use is a large part of your teenager's social and emotional development. It just is. Don't struggle with it. Remind yourself that engaging in social media networking actually enhances your child's sense of belonging and connectedness. (see point above!) It can enhance self-esteem, reduce depression and anxiety and also reduce a sense of loneliness.
  • Remind yourself that social media provides fantastic opportunities for your teenager. Such as: greater community involvement; growth in creativity and ideas; greater learning opportunities; unique social skills development.
  • Feel reassured that the interactions young people have on social media are predominantly positive. If they are struggling to develop a positive profile, they can be taught how to maximise the positive outcomes and benefits of healthy interactions online. Identifying issues early on leads to better outcomes.
  • Focus on balanced reviews of the benefits vs risks debate.
  • Become familiar with the social networking sites your kids use. Create your own profile. Learn about privacy settings so that you can monitor and teach your child about them too. They change all the time so you need to keep on top of this.
  • In an age appropriate time frame that is right for your family, don't forbid your child from using social media. This may only lead to them using it in secret which is far riskier than if you are aware of their use and proactively managing it.
  • Open the lines of communication. Sit down and negotiate the terms of use with your child. This should include how you will monitor their use. Some parents 'friend' their child online and watch from afar. Others have other family members observing and reporting back any concerns. Some parents have their child's password and might access their profile at any stage. This will be up to you to negotiate. Obviously, the younger the child, the more stringent the rules and monitoring should be.
  • Respect their need for social media engagement. Validate that need. This will get you a lot further in the battle than arguing with them or denying their need for engaging in social networking online.
  • Educate your child about the risks.
  • Be specific about the kinds of personal information you don't want them to share e.g. phone numbers, address, date of birth, school etc.
  • Teach them to respect themselves, others and the Internet.
  • Manage when and how long they spend online. This might include removing devices at night to ensure they're getting good quality sleep.
  • Respect their privacy. Within reason.
  • Talk about keeping passwords private and logging out of public computers.
  • Once you have a good grasp on how social media can be used for the powers of good, initiate open conversations with your child about the sources of our self-esteem and the changes this will take throughout adolescence (i.e. be sought more externally e.g. from peers). This increased awareness will assist them if and when any risky situations arise. More importantly, instil a healthy sense of self-worth and self-esteem in your child to reduce the risk they'll seek reassurance from the less-desirable sources.
  • Ensure your child knows the permanence of their digital footprint.
  • Teach them to check their posts for appropriateness, respect and tone before posting. Let them know that if they wouldn't say it in public/person, they shouldn't post it.
  • Help your teenager understand the likelihood that they'll over-estimate the number of people viewing/judging them online. Help them achieve more balanced and rational estimates.
  • Openly discuss the law and the legal ramifications of sexting or cyberbullying making sure the information you have is relevant to their age group. The laws around the distribution of child pornography have changed recently. Make sure your knowledge is up to date.
  • Teach your child to be aware of other people taking photos and videos of them at parties and ensure they know where the photos end up. This might lead to more conversations about tagging and their privacy settings, and the settings of their friends (again!).
  • Make sure they know to only accept friend requests from people they know are 'actual' people i.e. at least friends of friends.
  • Encourage them to always report abuse online. Facebook for example, has a button to do this quite easily.
  • Empower your child to block people, un-friend people or restrict access to their profile for those people who are not acting appropriately.
  • If something goes wrong, stay calm. Work together to solve the problem. If they've posted something inappropriate, hurtful or offensive, work to remove it from the site. Contact the police if required.
  • Finally, observe your children. Notice any changes in their mood, behaviour, social functioning, grades, time spent alone etc. and talk to them. More importantly, listen. Seek professional help via your general practitioner if you're in any doubt.

These are but a few strategies to consider. It's by no means an extensive list, but one which I hope stimulates some open conversation between you and your child with the view that if in the future, they need someone to talk to about their social media use, then you'll be the one they turn to.

Please send me your comments or messages about any strategies you'd like me to include on the list. I'm all for the community helping one another!

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1 comment

  • Comment Link Rocky Sunday, 08 May 2016 21:58 posted by Rocky

    I love this! It is clear and concise and dovetails Social Media issues wonderfully with issues that have plagued parents since the beginning of time.

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