We live in the digital age and social media has become the new “place” to hang out and socialize. Recently there has been much discussion surrounding adolescents and the influences of social media. Like all technology, it has its benefits, potential risks and challenges. Understanding these aspects can help parents teach their children healthy ways of using social media.
The American Psychological Association (APA) says that social media isn’t automatically good or bad for teens. The way it affects them depends on their personality, their social situation, and what they do on social media. The way teens interact online is influenced by their own actions on social media and the known (and hidden) features of these platforms.
Parents are the mentors and guiders for their kids’ entry onto social media. The first consideration for age-appropriate use of social media should be based on each adolescent’s level of maturity. Are they mature and able to handle the amount of social exposure they may have online? And do you, as a parent, have the time and patience involved for managing your teen’s social media use? Some of the requirements for managing teen social media use includes:
- Setting time limits
- Monitoring and supervising teens’ online activities
- Having ongoing discussions about online experiences
- Limiting chat functions, especially for strangers
- Setting parental controls for adult content
During early adolescence, it is highly recommended that parents monitor social media postings and content viewed. If left unsupervised, chances are that kids will see things that can’t be unseen. Know what I mean? The internet can be a scary, dirty, frightening place at times…
It’s critical for parents to have early, honest, and ongoing talks with adolescents about how to use social media in safe and helpful ways. Think of the basics we all heard from our parents: “don’t talk to strangers”, “what do you do if…?”, “let me check your Halloween candy before you eat any”. You may not see the similarities, but they were teaching us how to start being independent from them while they monitored.
The internet, including social media, is a powerful tool that will be an ongoing presence in daily lives. Like all tools, they have good or bad uses. A hammer can be used to build a house or destroy a windshield. Social media is the same. Parental guidance, teaching, and monitoring early can help kids learn how to wield this power in healthy ways.