Parenting Social Media-Crazed Teens

By Tara Bitzan

Parenting Social-Media Crazed KidsA not-so-very-long-time ago, it wasn’t that difficult to keep track of your teen and who they were hanging out with. Today, things are more challenging.

Cell phones, e-mail and social media sites have made the world a whole lot smaller, and made it a whole lot harder for parents to keep track of who their kids are “spending time” with.

Don’t give up. It’s more important than ever that you stay tuned in. Here are a few parenting “musts:”

Communicate! In any aspect of parenting, talking openly with your child is the best way to stay on the same page. Talk about social media, what they want to participate in and why. Be open-minded. Discuss online dangers. Share real-life examples of what can happen (identity theft, online stalking or bullying, harassment, etc.). Stress that “what goes online stays online.”

The delete button doesn’t make things go away. Kids need to learn how their online actions (and the actions of others) can impact their future.

Keep up with technology. Once you find out which social media sites are popular with your child and their friends, do some research. Learn what they are all about and how to use them yourself to gain some insight.

Set expectations and consequences. Tell your teen they must get permission before signing up on any social media site. Make it clear they should never share personal or private information including online passwords, except with you. As a parent, you have every right to your child’s passwords. Let them know you may visit their sites from time to time. Pay attention to what they are posting, what their friends are posting, who their “friends” are. Look for red flags. Set time limits so they don’t become too engrossed in these sites.

As with any rule, if one is broken, take away privileges until they are earned back. When children have proven themselves trustworthy, use your judgment in giving them more freedom.

Share. Talk about what’s going on in the social media world. If your child talks about a fun photo a friend posted on Facebook, be interested and say, “Show me!” If you heard about a new social media craze, ask your child what it’s all about. Open the doors of communication. If you act interested, your child may invite you “in” and share the social media experience with you, and that’s a lot better option than having to check up without their approval.

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