If you have a tween or teen, it’s likely they have at least one social media account — or they want to set up an account. Social media can be a scary place, but they can also help children connect with their friends and learn about new things. We think the most important thing you can do as a parent is have open conversations with your children about social media and encourage them to share their experiences with you and come to you if they have a problem. Here are three tips to help you talk to your child about social media:
- Set ground rules. These rules could define which social media they can and cannot use, who they can connect with on social media, and the type of content that is inappropriate to share. For example, you may decide it’s okay for your child to have an Instagram account as long as the account is set to private and they let you follow them. Or you might say it’s okay to use Instagram but not Snapchat. Or you might tell them it’s okay for them to watch Tiktok videos but you don’t want them posting videos of themselves. When you set these ground rules, it’s important to share with your child why you’re putting these rules in place, and to let them know that rules can change over time. As they get older, for example, you might be more willing to let them join social media without your explicit approval first.
- Along with setting up rules, it’s important to make sure everyone — adults and children — understand those rules. It might even be a good idea to write down rules about technology use and put them in a prominent place to reduce confusion. While tempting, you should avoid spying on your child by going through their phone whenever possible. This is a breach of trust and could make your child resent you and try harder to hide things from you. Part of growing up is putting more trust into your child and letting them make mistakes; if they do make a mistake, you want them to trust you enough to come to you for help.
- Fostering trust with your child when it comes to social media will also benefit other types of interactions, and you can encourage them to come to you whenever they have a problem or want to talk about something they saw. Especially as teens enter high school, you want them to know that they can talk to you without fear of judgment or punishment, and trust plays a key role in that relationship.