Social Media and Your Teenager
by Lindsay Cote
Any parent of an adolescent knows that kids are in many ways more connected now than ever. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook - the ways to communicate electronically have exploded over the past few years. There are many benefits to social media (keeping track of your kids is one), but the perils have also multiplied. Unfortunately, the rapid advancement of technology has not come with a rule book. These are a few simple guidelines for managing your child's presence on social media.
- Have a discussion with your child when first setting up his or her first account - what is acceptable social media etiquette, what is not, and what kind of information is okay to share online.
- Write up a contract with mutually agreeable terms, including agreed-upon consequences if one of these rules is broken, and stick to it.
- Monitor your child's social media accounts. If your child is using Instagram, if may be helpful for you to be using it, too. You may want your child to give you the passwords to each of your accounts.
- Emphasise that your actions are to keep your child safe rather than to “catch” him or her doing something wrong.
- When your child consistently demonstrates that he or she can use social media responsibly, consider reinforcing that by gradually allowing more freedom.
- Follow the rules of the social media site being used. For example, Facebook does not allow users under the age of 13.
- Set a good example yourself - i.e., limit swearing, aggressive comments to others, and posting provocative photos.
- Become well-versed in privacy settings and utilise the most stringent settings.
- Keep an open dialogue with your child about his or her use of social media. That is, ask your child regularly about what applications they use and how often and regularly revisit the ground rules your have set together.
- Ultimately, the most helpful thing you can do is to limit your child's access to their online devices. That is, keep the dinner table and bed as gadget-free zones so that your child does not become dependent on these devices for entertainment. A benefit of doing so is that you can then use access to electronics as a reward or incentive for good behaviour.