In this digital age, it is easier than ever for adolescents to connect and make plans with friends.
A recent Edudemic article about online activity among adolescents indicates that 95 percent of teens use the Internet, 81 percent use social media and 50 percent log into social media multiple times per day. Thanks to the advances in technology, a friend or activity is now just a click, comment or direct message away.
But with this added convenience, comes additional risk. As parents and educators, there is concern that children may misuse their social media access by connecting with strangers with suspect motives or creating an adverse environment at school or in a community with inappropriate or hurtful comments and photos.
Social media presents unique and difficult situations for a community. Given its risks and benefits, how do you find a balance between allowing your child the freedom to use social media and other online tools, while also ensuring their well-being and appropriate behavior?
Here are a few suggestions to consider:
- Ask your child about his or her social media use and discuss the dangers and consequences associated with it. Many children simply don’t realize how easily accessible their information is and what harm can be done with it. Talk about how photos they post or comments they make can impact their future. Ask if they have been treated disrespectfully or bullied on social media and make it clear that they can come to you with questions or help. If there are concerns that need to be addressed at school, let administrators know.
- Monitor your child’s use of social media periodically by reviewing a snapshot of what your child is posting online. This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive review – just check a few comments and/or postings on a few different sites. Kids with nothing to hide will usually let you check without too much of an argument. If your child is secretive about what they post online or resistant to letting you check, consider that cause for additional review and concern.
- Learn all you can about the various forms of social media, as well as their risks and benefits. The better informed you are, the easier it will be to initiate important dialogue with your child. Here are some of the most popular social networks available: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, YouTube, Tumblr.
- Share what you learn with other parents and with your child’s school, whenever necessary. The collaboration and open dialogue will benefit everyone.
Hats off to all parents who manage to walk the tightrope of maintaining boundaries for their child while still allowing them the freedom to explore the social media landscape. Parenting in today’s world is no easy task. If we can help you in your parenting journey, don’t hesitate to ask!
Jason Culp is the Head of Upper School at Lawrence. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Baldwin-Wallace College and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University. Jason is licensed as a Professional Counselor (PC) with the State of Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.