When you talk with your teens about social media, what should you talk about? Is it enough to make sure that they know how to be safe online and the importance of protecting their privacy? No, say the folks at The Parenting Place; there is much, much more, and you need to start talking before they receive their first phone and set up their first social media account, and you need to keep the conversation going throughout the teen years.
“How to talk about: Social media” offers tips for parents on making this a great continuing conversation. If you are a youth leader or other adult working with teens you can encourage group discussion of these issues. And whatever your relationship with teens encourage them to search the bible for teachings that will help them to use social media to honor God and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Before getting their first phone
Long before giving their daughter her first phone, says the author of this article, there were “some really ‘uncool’ things we insisted we talked about … in the hope of helping her see social media from all the different angles.” The daughter had to answer (in writing) ten questions, beginning with “What are the risks of having a social media account?” and “What are the benefits?” Other questions included “What’s okay to share?” and “What’s not okay to share?”
Using social media
Once the rules have been established and your teen has an online profile, your conversation should address the realities of social media:
It’s a highlight reel, not behind-the-scenes
People generally post “their shiniest achievements and their most flattering photos.” You need to remind your teens that what they see on social media doesn’t always reflect “the hard work, struggles and failures behind the scenes.”
The comparison trap
When your teens scroll through their friends’ photos and status updates, they can celebrate with and encourage their friends. But there’s also a temptation to compare themselves with their friends, and “there’s a risk they’ll come up feeling short.” Talk about the effects of comparison and how they can protect their hearts.
The popularity parade
The fact that popularity is measurable online has considerable implications for teens’ self-esteem. “As parents, however, we should make sure our voice of encouragement is loud and clear for our kids … parents’ encouragement and cheerleading — in real life — speaks volumes.” Talk to your teens about their posts and what feedback they receive. Ask them what their friends are posting about and their response to their friends’ posts.