For teenagers, social media has quickly become one of the main ways to connect with each other and it can make/take up a lot of our time spent on devices. The following guide can help you and your children discuss the positives and negatives of social media so that you can decide how it fits into your lives together.
If your children already use social media, start by asking them how they use social media to make real, positive connections. Share your own experiences. What have been some of the benefits that you’ve experienced with social media use?
What do your children believe are some of the downsides of social media? Have they seen or heard of anyone using social media in a way that has hurt someone else or have they seen or heard of anyone getting bullied? Again, share your own experiences. Also, talk about the fear of 'missing out' that social media can cause, and how it’s a common feeling among children and adults alike.
Finally, if your children are ready to start using social media or are already on it, talk about how to know when it might be time to take a break. Explore ways that they can stay connected with friends during these times.
Just like getting their own device, not every child is ready to use social media. Make the decision based on your child’s ability to handle the responsibility and the complexity of using social media appropriately.
Most platforms have age requirements (generally 13 years old), but in some cases, peers might have access to social media through their parents, older siblings or otherwise.
There are different ways to use social media. Help your children choose an approach that is positive for themselves and their relationships with others.
Devorah Heitner, PhD
“Active mentorship is crucial for children in the digital age. We want to teach children to do the right thing, not 'catch' them doing the wrong thing.”
Together with your children, create a list of 5–10 positive things that your children could do using social media. This could be sharing something about anti-bullying, sending a nice message to a relative or even as simple as liking a friend’s photo. If they’re ready to start using social media, get them to practise by ticking off items on this list. Note: Remember that most social media platforms have a minimum age requirement of 13 years.