Social media has received a lot of flack especially as it pertains to tweens and teens. Many blogs and articles have exploded on the internet painting it in a bad light. And sure, there are negative things, from the amount of time that is wasted, to bullying, to exposure to pornography and violence, and of course, the constant need to have followers and likes. However, social media can have its positives even when used by our maturing and sometimes rebellious kids. It may even be used to your parenting benefit, and here are five ways how.
1. Post good things about your child: All too often parents will neglect to post anything about their children, or worse, post embarrassing photos without considering their child’s feelings, or the possibility that the pics might be seen by the child’s friends. Try avoiding this and only post the good stuff about your child.
For instance, my teenage son loves to cook, and he is awesome with his younger siblings. Sure, he has his teen moments, but when I see things that are commendable, I take a quick second to snap a photo and post it. Doing this shows him that I appreciate it enough to share with friends and family, and that I do notice good things. He can also look at all the kind comments and likes to help boost his self-esteem when he is feeling down.
*While it is good to do these things, it is important to follow up with a real connection or conversation even about the post itself. If you are all post and no action, then your posts may eventually seem unmeaningful and even confuse your child, especially if you have a challenging relationship at times.*
2. Like your child’s posts: This was a strange one for me at first. I would see my daughter’s posts, and would like them but not “like” them. I guess I thought that it was a given that I liked them, and I was often there when she took the pictures, or was even the one taking them. One day, she asked me why I never liked her posts, and that’s when I knew it was important to her. My hitting the “like” button gave her that extra reassurance that I approved.
*There will be times when you disapprove. This is when you need to take it directly to your child, rather than embarrassing him or her in an online comment. Trust me on this one.*
3. It will help you gain insight on your child’s interests: One great thing about social media, is that you can see what your child’s interests are through what he or she shares or likes. My daughter doesn’t share much, but likes to scroll through and like things. On Instagram in particular, simply by going to the “News” tab, you can see what your child has liked or commented on.
It’s by doing this, I’ve learned my daughter has an interest in baking and clothing design. As one who is not a baker and who has difficulty matching my own clothes, I would not have even thought about giving her opportunities in these areas. Now that I am aware, I have added to the baking ingredients in my pantry, and been more open to her cutting up old clothes of mine to make them new again.
4. It will help you gain insight on social/friend issues: Some parents may disagree with me on this, but I have my daughter’s Instagram account linked to mine so that I can get the notifications of messages, and even see her newsfeed. I want to be aware of what is happening and what she is seeing in her social media world. You could even just have your child’s password to do the same thing. In either case, being able to have an insight in your child’s social media world, you may be cued into social issues — even bullying.
As an example, my daughter had a girl from school who was giving her a hard time. She would tell my daughter that her clothes were ugly, that her profile picture was dumb, and then proceed to control her in other ways. Had I not seen these messages, I would have had no idea that these things were happening, and would not have taken steps to have it stop. While I know that as she gets older this will be more difficult to do, doing this right now has let my daughter know that I will always be there to help when she needs me, and that I want her to be open with me about things like this.
5. You can use it as a tool to spark important conversations: As much as parents want to avoid social media because of exposure to things like pornography and violence, studies have shown that the average age a child is exposed to porography is 11. This is with or without social media. Simply put, the fact of the matter is, you can’t escape it.
Absolutely put filters on their devices and in your internet at home, but know that it will happen. Perhaps it is a scantily clothed model (soft porn) or something much more graphic, it is important to talk about what your child might see, and what to do when it happens. I have had these conversations with my children, and I continue to follow up about things to keep the conversation going. I have had some great talks with my kids where they’ve opened up about stuff they have seen. It’s been good for our family to have candid discussions about uncomfortable images and content that are inevitably seen on the internet.
You decide when/if social media is something that you will allow your kids to be on. And maybe you decide to stay completely away. But, if you do choose to let them be on it, use it to your parenting advantage, because it certainly does help!