They text, they tweet, they chat. If the teens in your life are anything like mine, it is nonstop. We spend a lot of time discussing the when, where, how and why of social media usage in our family and to be honest (or TBH in social media speak) I even become exhausted.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 75 percent of all adolescents have cell phones and access at least one social network a day. Seeing as how the adolescents I live with are not average, they access about four networks a day (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook only if necessary). Click here if you need a list of social media networks and their age requirements.
I realize I listed more than four networks but I have three kids and they each have different daily social media habits.
While it can be overwhelming to monitor the involvement, it has to happen. The basic rule for social media involvement in our family is this:
I will be where my kids are on social media. Yes, even Snapchat.
I’ve found that parents usually fit into one of these categories:
- Those who are terrified to allow kids to engage in social media
- Those who hate the very idea of social media
- Those who feel If it’s not facebook or pinterest, they aren’t learning any other platforms.
The bottom line is social media is where teens communicate. This is where plans are made. And unfortuntely, this is where bullying, sexting, other ways of hormone-driven innappropriateness occurs. This is also where they gripe about you and their teachers and other adults who they may find annoying.
As you may know, I received a huge wake up call not too long ago when one of my teens thought the answer to a social media problem was in unfriending and blocking someone else. In that particular instance my kid was at fault – and I wouldn’t have known about it if I wasn’t on social media.
While I know I can’t track every little step they make, I do believe that my involvement on social media does cause them to pause and think before they post since they know I will probably see it.
This list is a work in progress, but it has served as a good foundation for rules of engagement and helpful hints in our family. Let me know if there’s anything you think we should add!
Turn in all devices at a certain time – at least one hour before bedtime. If if doesn’t happen on social media before 9 pm on school nights, it doesn’t happen at all
Talk to your kids about things you’ve seen on social media. Don’t judge, just share things you’ve noticed in a conversational way so they know you are paying attention.
Use privacy settings, location settings, and rules for posting that you are comfortable with. For example, no one should take photos in front of your house so the house number is recognizable.
Tell your kids to tell you if they are contacted or friended by someone they have never met in real life. We don’t do internet stalkers and catfishers, and you shouldn’t either.
Discuss what privacy means to your family. I have one child who does not like to be tagged in photos on Facebook. I respect his wishes and I don’t tag him. If I don’t want to be recorded on Snapchat, they don’t record me.
Be aware that some sites allow for secret pages. Unfortunately I had to find this our the hard way a couple of years ago. Some sites do allow for accounts to not only be private, but be secret.
Watch what you post yourself. Teens imitate the adults around them. If you are posting innappropriate things, chances are they are as well.
Encourage kids to use a profile picture of a cartoon of themselves or animated pic that looks cute and fun, but not a positive ID. Bitmoji is a fun app that cartoonizes users as an emoji. It’s quite easy to screen shot the likeness and use it as a profile picture. If the Peanuts gang are more your style, visit Peanutize Me and get a cartoon of yourself as a Peanuts character.
Use the numbers game to your advantage. Teens who are new to social media are all about getting the most likes, followers, and friends. Many of my kids’ friends follow me on Instagram and have even friended me on Facebook. Based on what they post, I get an additional insight into the lives – especially the things they don’t tell me – of my people as well.
How do you survive with teens on social media?