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I am now officially a mum of teenagers, and THE biggest things that we argue about are phones and social media. From how long they have had screen time from day to day, to whether or not it is OK to have Snapchat at 13….
There is now no denying that the phone can become a battle ground for many mums of teenagers. So what can we do about it?
How do we reduce arguments about social media with teens?
There is little escape from social media as a teenager, and parent now. This only makes it all the more important to “embrace” it within their and your lives. It is only by facing up to its presence, that we can really start to work with our kids to understand, and use it for the greater good.
Start discussions early
The earlier you begin talking about, and setting boundaries for, social media, the more normalised conversations with your child (and then your teen) will be.
There is nothing wrong with talking about it as it comes up at school; some kids as young as nine are on Instagram. Sometimes this IS driven by their parents, but their images are still out there, in the public domain for anyone that wants to look at them. This is a perfect learning point to discuss whether this is appropriate with younger kids.
Ask them what they think about it all – and help to empower them about social media, rather than them thinking that you are in control.
There is nothing more likely to cause an argument than a teen thinking their mum (or dad) is about to take over… 😂
Set a great example
If your rules include not using the phone at dinnertime, or taking it into your bedroom, to prevent use of social media….
Make sure YOU stick to the “rules” too.
It is hard to show that it is important to stay off your phone when you see your parents on it all the time, right?
Show your kids you enjoy reading a book? Or a walk in the park? Or even better, that days out with the kids are so much more fun than sitting around scrolling videos on Facebook?
Make sure you are up front about the rules
It is hard for a teen not to push boundaries.
That is basically their “job”, as a teen. As much as we don’t like it; they are trying to understand what they need to do to become and adult. It’s a confusing time, hormones, a feeling of a total lack of control, when they want to have MORE control as they feel like an adult, but are still a child.
It’s a complicated business, so they push back at you as part of the learning process. If you are calm, and clear about it, they will question, but may surprise you by accepting as they settle into the norm.
Things you might want to discuss in terms of rules are:
- How long should they be on their phones/have screen time in a day? Being clear about how your teen is expected to use their mobile generally can really help to manage their use of social media alongside this,
- Are they allowed their phones in their bedrooms at night, or is there a “phone curfew”?
- How are you going to measure screen time? There are apps available for managing this, such as Circle from Disney. It also is possible that you may be able to use the screen time functions with the devices you have.
- What apps are they allowed on, and how are you going to monitor this?
Decide what is OK in your house and talk to them about it. Then, once you have done this….
This is actually really important. You cannot say:
“You aren’t allowed Instagram until you are 13”
And then relent 6 months later, as they are “nearly 13”. To a teenager, that is an open door; and you’ll be getting nagged constantly until you relent for some of the other apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc. etc.
Make sure you are happy with the decisions that you make, so you aren’t tempted to change them. A wonderful place to go for help on these is Common Sense Media. This site looks at everything from apps, to TV programs; and gives age ratings based on the official line. These recommendations are alongside thoughts from parents and kids too.
So, for example Snapchat, kids say is appropriate for 12+, parents say 14+, and officially it is 16+. These are averages, and you can read both those with the lower, and the higher ratings to get a feel for why those individuals feel as they do.
Don’t stick your head in the tech sand.
Stay up to date; read the news about what is going on. Use any social media related news as a talking point with your kids, so that they are learning about what CAN happen if things go wrong.
Perhaps explaining gently to your kids that sometimes everything isn’t what it seems on social media will help them to be more wary in that environment.
Be positive about social media
Yes, there are bad things that happen to teenagers because of social media.
BUT, we mustn’t forget that there are also LOTS of good things too, so make sure you discuss this with the kids as well, so they don’t feel that all YOU talk about with social media is negative.
Instagram, in particular, is particularly good at being positive about how teens are given a voice within their platform for the greater good.
Take a look at their Wellbeing hub with your kids, and in particular the #perfectlyme hashtag. This is a wonderfully positive space where people are openly discuss and challenge ideas about body image.
Be clear that any online mistakes WON’T mean taking your kids’ phone away
Teenagers are more scared of their phone being taken away, and having no access to social media or online games than an awful lot of other things.
So if you make it clear from the start that even if there is something that they do, that perhaps they shouldn’t have done on social media, you will talk about it, and learn from it together.
Whatever it is, you won’t take their device away, they are much more likely to come to you if there is a problem if they know they won’t lose their phone privileges.
Stay calm and talk it through.
Teens have a wonderful grasp of technology, and yes, they will make mistakes, but they’ll learn from them. It is part of our role to help them to realise they are making that mistake before is becomes too late and too dangerous.
Social media could be more about empowering teens to learn, extend their friendships and support each other.
Sometimes it IS about being scared, bullying or arguing. But, let’s help our teens to make a positive contribution, and make it a better place.
We have a lot of great resources on eSafety, screen time, gaming and phones on KiddyCharts:
- We have the ultimate guide to screentime which is a must read for parents out there,
- What about working WHEN your child is ready for their phone?
- Did you know that there is JUST ONE THING you need to do to keep your kids safe when they are gaming?
- Finally, just make sure you know about the 5 apps that allow kids to talk to strangers too, won’t you?
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