Striking the Balance – Parenting Children on Social Media

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Children and social media: It can be a thorny issue for many parents.

There is a common conflict. On the one hand, if you let your child engage in social media they can feel part of their friendship group and won’t feel left out or left behind, whilst on the other hand, you may feel anxious about the possible dangers of engaging with certain sites.

As I’ve been saying in my previous blog posts, there are a lot of good things that come from social media and this is also true for children and teenagers. They can connect online with friends out of school time (the equivalent of us being told in the 70s and 80s to get off the landline: ‘you’ve just spent all day with x, why do you need to chat to them all evening as well?’) and can use their technology to help with homework, as well as arranging to meet their friends, play games and connect online e.g., with sites like Dungeons and Dragons and Tik Tok.

But and this is a big but, how much time should they have on social media and how do you control who they are spending time with?

There are genuine pitfalls to be concerned about. Children are groomed online every day which can lead to devastating consequences such as bullying and sexual abuse.

So how does a parent navigate this?

1. The first is to be a good role model. Just as children who experience their parents as keen readers become interested in books themselves so do children who see their parents have a healthy relationship with their phones appreciate that they can also put their phones down. It is possible to not use them in face-to-face social times or when it’s inappropriate.

But it’s so easy for a child to get sucked into social media…

2. So it’s vital that you talk with your children. Helping them see that people aren’t always who they say they are. They may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing – or grandma’s clothing like in Little Red Riding Hood?

3. Help your child understand that doing things for ‘likes’ alone is not a healthy motivation. Whilst it’s lovely that we do something that makes us feel good, that feeling should be enough in itself and we should not strive for external praise. This is very challenging in today’s world of online influencers and role models but explaining the reality of situations and how all that appears online is not usually all gold may make them think more objectively about what they see and hear.

Obviously social media can be a huge distraction for us all. The headlines about banning phones in school signify the extent of the problem nationally. It is really important to think about how you want your family to behave with your phones.

4. Show a united front at home. Do you want a family plan with rules for devices? Will there be a cut-off time for screen time? Or will there be a specific technology hour or two on school nights? Make a plan and stick to it. In a two-parent household it is important to back each other up by keeping to the rules.

5. Do you want access to your child’s social media accounts so you can monitor what they are up to? Or do you want security settings set up to control how much time they can spend on specific apps? Or worst-case scenario, easy control to switch off the internet altogether if needed.

6. Most importantly is the need to be open and honest with everyone in the family. That way no one is doing anything secretive. You need to be able to trust your child – and they you. Have faith that the morals and qualities you have brought them up with are instilled in them enough for them to make good choices and then be able to talk about it with you if things become concerning or anxious for them.

7. Know that you are not alone. Talk to other parents with children of a similar age to yours, or a little older so you can swap notes.

8. Seek help. Talk to school staff and other significant adults in your child’s life. Find help online. There are loads available.

Here are a few links to start off with:

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash