In today’s world, there is virtually no escape from technology and social media. From infancy to adulthood, there is an application for almost everything. Infants and toddlers are drawn to bright lights, vivid colors, and melodic tunes. Older children enjoy testing their skills and having opportunities to create, with more advanced games like MineCraft or FortNite. Before you know it, your child is requesting their own social media account. They may want to join Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, or one of the countless others. As a parent, what do you do?
As a parent, it is necessary to set boundaries for your child. Parents are responsible for making sure their children are appropriately dressed, clean, eat balanced meals, educated, and are taught to act responsibly. Responsible use of technology is no different, in that it too requires appropriately setting of boundaries.
Model Appropriate Use: As a parent, we are models of behavior for our children. This requires demonstrating moderation and responsible sharing of photos and personal information. There’s an opportunity here to have a discussion about what is deemed appropriate and reminding our children of the everlasting effects of what they share on social media.
Supervision: Parents should be able to supervise their children’s use and interactions on social media. This will require the parent to have full access to their children’s usernames and passwords to all social media accounts. Children will often resist this boundary wanting to have their privacy. While their desire for privacy is valid, safety is most important.
Obligations Come First: Any and all responsibilities should be complete before using social media. This includes homework, chores, and other miscellaneous tasks that are assigned.
Respect: Demand that children always remain respectful on social media. Cyber-bullying is a real thing. Teaching children that the internet is not an acceptable place to put others “on blast” when they are angry or upset. While the internet may seem like a safe or anonymous place to vent frustrations, there are very real consequences for inappropriate postings.
Now that you have set appropriate boundaries, it should be smooth sailing from here, right? I am afraid not. Adolescents are smart and crafty. They are notoriously gifted at finding loopholes to their parents’ rules and boundaries. There are a few things to remember when you are trying to monitor your tween or teen’s use of social media.
E-mail: Signing up for an e-mail account is far too easy for a young person to do. They can easily lie about age for consent or access. This means that your child MAY be able to sign up for an e-mail account without your approval or without your awareness, and thus, may have access to content that is inappropriate.
Second Accounts: So, what would a teen do with an e-mail account that mom and dad don’t know about? Sign up for other social media accounts that mom and dad don’t know about of course! It is not uncommon for a teen to have multiple usernames for various social media platforms. There is the “family friendly” account that is monitored meticulously by mom or dad that the teen can post most of their information. However, there is often a second, separate, account that parents may not know about that is used for friends. These second accounts tend to have more personal information or thoughts, and can hold more concerning information, such as posts alluding to depression, drug use, or other unhealthy behaviors.
Alternate Devices: Some parents will use their teens phone or electronic devices as a way to impose consequences. While this is often a very effective punishment, teens will find ways around these restrictions. Teens will sometimes turn to their friends to be able to access their social media accounts from their device, particularly if they have an account that mom and dad are unaware of and are unable to monitor.
So, what is the Bottom Line?
Bottom line, it is going to take a good relationship with your teen to be able to effectively monitor their use of social media. As a parent, you should be setting boundaries, meaning you should model good use of social media, have access to their accounts, make sure that their responsibilities are met, and ensure they are interacting with others respectfully. However, many adolescents thirst for their freedom and privacy and may feel that they need to have their own accounts. Given the ease of access, signing up for an additional account is tantalizing.