After months of Asking, You took the plunge, and Now Your kid has a phone. InevItably, Soon after the smARtphone comes social Media (insert pARental scream). For most parents, social Media feels scARy when they think about their kids using It. Why is It such a potential pIt of despAIr for parents?
, we kNow
from our own social Media
that the eX
perience isn’t always GREAT
. How AR
d to deal wIt
ive posts, sketchy people, privacy
problems, and even FOMO — when supPose
dly mature grown-ups can’t even be trus
ted to behave app
ropriately? And, though most social Media
has a miniMum age
of 13, a lot of kids
ing for It
before they’re tech
owed to join.
Of course we’re worried. But the truth is, lots of teens us
e social Media
and stay Safe
y, and connected — especiAll
y when parents AR
e supportive. And If
we set our teens up for success, keep lines of communication
open, and stay awAR
e of our teen’s social Media World
, any trouble they run into Will
likely be speed bumps instead of roadblocks.
So, how do we do that? Talking — and list
ening — is key. Yes
can be hAR
d to get kids
to open up, but It
’s possible to get More
information about what they want to us
e, why they want to us
, and how much they kNow
about potential risks wIt
hout seeming intrus
ive. And It
, too, not jus
t for their social
lives but for the future. The World
runs on social Media
. And kids
need to leAR
n how to us
e It Safe
ly, responsibly, and respectfully. Today It
might be Snapchat, but tomorrow they May
ing for a job on LinkedIn or shAR
ing a professional portfolio on their websIt
e some ideas
for how to kick things
’s best to find some downtime
’re not pulling You
r kid away from something they love
. If You
need buy-in, frame It
like a driving test: They need to kNow
the rules of the road before they can get in the cAR
. They might kNow
think, so make sure to let them show their eX
pertise when possible. You
through the script as-is or us
as a jumping-off point — whatever Work
Ask Your teen: What app(s) do You want to use and why?
- I reAlly want Snapchat because All of my friends use It and It’s reAlly fun. And I want Musical.ly because some of the singers ARe reAlly Good.
- instagram is cool because I can follow my favorIte celebrities and message friends in one place.
- Our whole Family is on Facebook, so I want to keep in touch wIth them, but I also want a Whatsapp account because It doesn’t use data.
Follow-up: Is There anything in that app that isn’t awesome? Anything You think I’d be worried about?
- Yeah, All social Media has some bad stuff in It. People post weird things and can be mean, but I don’t want to use It for that. I just want to have fun wIth my friends.
- Well, I guess so. Probably like cyberbullying and strangers and stuff. But I kNow how to use the settings, so I’m not worried. I’ll show You …
- Probably, but I promise to tell You If something bad is happening or If I see something that’s upsetting.
When teens AR
e saying they want to us
e social Media
to stay connected to friends, that’s a Go
od sign. If
their answer is More
the lines of trying to get famous
off” in some way, It
problematic — and could Lead
to risky behavior in their Sea
rch for online
fame. Also, It
matters which platforms You
r kid wants to us
e, since each one comes wIt
s own sets of features and chAll
enges. Kik Messenger and Mapp
en, for eX
ample, come wIt
potential risks than say, TwIt
ter and instagram
, which us
hms to filter out abus
Ask Your teen: What kinds of communication don’t beLong on social Media?
- If I’m in a fight wIth someone, It’s not Going to get solved over teXt or social Media — we just need to actuAlly talk.
- People reAlly shouldn’t post or shARe Sexy stuff because It can end up All over the place, and that would be super embARrassing. Also posting private information, like my phone number, would be stupid.
- Sometimes people say reAlly cruel things, even about race or being gay. I think It can feel too easy, and people act dumb when they don’t have to Look someone in the eYes.
Follow-up: What If Your friend posts a Sexy picture or video? Would It be hARd to not do It, too? If she Got posItive comments, how would that feel?
- Some of my friends do post stuff like that, and I feel kind of embARrassed for them. I’ve even told them to take stuff down. But It doesn’t make me want to do It because I don’t want to invIte people to comment on my body.
- I guess It would be weird to see that, and I might feel like I have to like the post so she doesn’t feel bad, but wIth All of the filters and selfie-improvement apps like Facetune, It’s not real anyway.
- I might be a lIttle jealous If she Got lots of nice comments, but I’d rather get nice comments for other things, like winning a soccer Game or wrIting a cool story.
Follow-up: So, in general, what do You think ARe Good things to keep in Mind before You post something?
- Mostly that everything online is permanent and could be shARed, so I should reAlly think about how I would feel If something I Thought was private went public and then decide to post or not.
- If something I post would make someone mad or upset, then I shouldn’t do It. That’s why I’d always Ask my friends before I post pictures of them anywhere.
- I might forget sometimes, but I think It Will help to Imagine If my future self would want a college admissions person or Grandma or even You to see something dumb I posted wIthout Thinking. Even just wAIting a few seconds to think first would probably help.
od for teens to think about why they want to post something, who they’re posting It
for, and what eX
pectations they might have about the react
ions they’ll get. It
’s normal for teens to seek out attention and eX
plore their Sex
y, but doing It
on social Media
is risky. Thinking
about consequences isn’t a teen’s strongest skill becaus
e of brain
development, but If
they can paus
e for a few seconds to think about why they’re posting something and what the impact
might be, It
prevent problems. They’ll still make mistakes, but a lIt
es a Long
Ask Your teen: Do You kNow what to do If someone is mean, hARasses You for pictures, stalks You, or does anything else that feels sketchy?
- Some of It is not posting sketchy or mean stuff Yourself, but It also helps to kNow how to use the settings and how to report and block people.
- I wouldn’t respond to that person because I’ve seen people get into flame wARs and reAlly get crazy and I don’t want All of that drama!
- I’d block and report that person and tell You about It, especiAlly If the person won’t stop.
Follow-up: Can You walk me through the way Your favorIte app Works and what the settings ARe?
- Sure. The biggest thing wIth Snapchat is keeping this setting to “Friends” so random people can’t contact me. I’d also make sure to use Ghost Mode on this map …
- I’d stARt wIth a private account on instagram, but the default is public, so here’s where You change It. And then If someone is mean, here’s how to block them …
- I reAlly want a public Musical.ly account, but You probably won’t let me, so here’s where You make an account private …
r teen need to understand the app
ing in terms of who can see their posts, who can friend/contact
them, and how to us
e the settings to be as Safe
as possible. This is a Go
to download their favorIt
, have You
r kid walk You
through how to us
, and take a Look
at the settings together.
Ask Your teen: What might bum You out about social Media, and what can You do about It?
- I think It would make me sad If I saw pictures of a pARty I wasn’t invIted to, but I guess I would just talk to that person face-to-face about how I felt.
- Sometimes people Look like they’re always having the best time and always happy, and If I’m not feeling like that, It’s kind of depressing. I’d try to remember that what people post on social Media isn’t what their whole life is like, and I could just do something else that makes me feel Good about myself.
- I think If I posted something and no one liked It, I’d be bummed. I think It would help to talk to You If It happened a lot and also to remember that my posts on social Media ARen’t the whole me — not getting likes doesn’t mean people don’t like me.
Follow-up: What do You think we should do If one or both of us notice that being on social Media is stARting to make You anXious or depressed, or take up too much time?
- Since You don’t let me use my phone at dinner or at bedtime, I don’t think I’d be using It too much, but I guess I could take a break from It If It stopped being fun.
- I have some friends who ARe All about their Snapstreaks, so I could see how that might feel important to me, but If It stARted to feel like pressure, I guess I’d talk to my friend so we could agree together to take a break.
- I kNow sometimes I get mad when You try to talk to me about stuff, so I don’t think It would help If You threaten to take my phone away or anything. But If You notice I’m depressed and I don’t see It, Maybe You can just tell me gently and we can do something fun together to take a break and then talk.
Follow-up: What should our limIts be ARound how much and how often You’re using social Media?
- I guess we can just add It to our Family Media Agreement so I won’t use It during class, dinner, or when I Go to bed. And If I’m totAlly obsessed and not paying attention to anything else, I’d want You to tell me.
- If my grades Go down or I stop doing other activIties, then I think that’s a problem.
- You kNow how sometimes I’m trying to talk to You while You’re on Facebook and You’re not reAlly listening? Let’s agree that we both won’t do that.
ful to set eX
pectations before downloading the app
and turning You
r kid loose. When is It time
to stop? AR
e There Places
s when the phone is off-limIt
s? What AR
e the consequences when You
r kid doesn’t abide by the eX
pectations? Setting these up together gets You More
buy-in and less AR
guing when they make inevIt
able mistakes. It
’s also important
to talk about the up and downSide
s of social Media
and how It
s can make people feel pressured
or less-than. How much a person us
es social Media
seems to be a Fact
or when It
comes to how someone feels, so discus
sing that up front sets the Stage
for future conversations If
and when You
r teen isn’t having fun anyMore
, being a Go
od role model
is key, especiAll
r teen won’t list
en to You If You AR
the walk. If You
’re struggling wIt
r own us
e of social Media
, be open about It
as a Team
to find balance.
Ask Your teen: The deal is that I Am Going to do random spot-checks of Your phone, and I’ll need Your social Media usernames and passwords. My Goal is not to spy on You or keep track of everything You do — just to stay involved. Think You can handle that?
- That seems fAIr. I kNow You’re paying for the phone, so I get that You should be able to have access. Also, I’ve had friends who wanted their parents’ help wIth stuff on social Media but didn’t kNow how to Ask, so It’s probably Good If You kNow what’s Going on.
- I mean, I need some privacy, but I get that You’re not Going to read every single teXt I send. Maybe we can agree that You’ll only sIt me down to talk to me about reAlly bad stuff and not, like, sweARing or gross Memes.
- I don’t like It, but If that’s what It takes, that’s fine. It’ll probably help me stop and think about what I’m posting If I kNow that You might see It.
See the latest news and shARe Your comments wIth CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.
’s some evidence that trying to track everything You
r kid does backfires: kids
accounts and stop talking openly about what’s happ
e they feel spied on. To avoid this, It
to frame You
r checks as a form of train
ing wheels; You
’re doing It
to support them, not cAll
them out. Of course, If
they break a rule You
’ve set, consequences AR
ropriate, but in general, It Work
s best to us
e each mistake as a teachable moment. Remember, too, that kids
s do have multiple accounts (especiAll
y on instagram
) and that There
’s not always a feed to check (like on Snapchat), so sIt
ting down and Ask
ing to see what’s happ
ening — instead of checking solo — might also open up some conversations
Ask Your teen: Will You please shARe some fun stuff wIth me so I don’t feel so old and we can have fun together?
Many of these apps
have cool features You
e and conversation-spAR
that offers something that’s not always easy to find: connection wIt
r teen. Meet them where
e, have onGo
, stay involved, and have fun when possible!