4 Tips for Parenting in a Social Media World
By Liz Shrieve
(Second in a series)
I grew up in the social media age, and let me be the first to say that it is not the greatest age to grow up in. It seems as if every day there is a new social media platform, update or news story—it is hard to keep up! With that said, I survived! Parents, let me encourage you that social media does not have to negatively impact your child. What I have learned is that social media is an incredible tool when it is used right. Here are a few tips that I have for you as a now 20-something that survived childhood in a social media world:
1. Understand the technologies.
Whether you let your children use social media or not, chances are they will still be exposed to it at a friend’s home, school, extracurricular activities or in secret. Gwenn O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP, co-author of a clinical report on social media and children, said, “A large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones. Parents need to understand these technologies so they can relate to their children’s online world—and comfortably parent in that world.”1 So don’t fear it—get background info on it!
If your children are open to it, have them give you social media lessons and teach you the tricks of the trade. They’ll appreciate the time that you spent with them getting to know what they care about, and you will then have an understanding for what they are spending so much time on. This could also be a great way to build a foundation of trust with your children.
2. Balance social media interaction with real life interactions.
Ensure that your children are balancing their social media interaction with real-life social interactions. Social media is linked to isolation in individuals when they limit their interactions with others to just behind the screen. One way you can create that balance is to create a daily limit of when your children are allowed to be on social media. You can also do a “phone tower” in the center of the table during family time and meals. Another idea is to create a no-phones policy when they have friends over.
3. Monitor what your children have access to.
Consider downloading or buying a safety network for your home and implementing parental controls on your children’s devices. These allow you to monitor what your children have access to on apps, Web searches and social media. While all of these are great tools to help ensure the safety of your children online, your supervision is also very important. Create social media accounts of your own, and follow your children and their friends’ social media accounts. Also, if you are wary of what your children are doing on social media, have them log into their accounts on your device so that you can see what they are searching, posting and messaging.
4. Create boundaries.
Initiate a living room-only or an open-door policy in your home where devices can be used freely in your living room (or whatever room you designate) or can only be used when doors are open. Another idea is to limit your children’s use of devices at night. My parents make my younger siblings charge their devices in the kitchen at night so that they don’t stay up scrolling through Instagram or messaging their friends. As they say, “nothing good happens after dark.” And, yes, this rule applies to anyone in the house. So friends staying over also keep their phones downstairs on the kitchen counter at night!
Parenting is tough during this age of social media, but you will get through this! Every generation has something new that their parents must parent through, and this is yours. Teach your children about the Lord, His lovingkindness and His love for them. Love your children well, do your best and trust that God will take care of the rest!
Liz Shrieve is a full-time student at Moody Bible Institute and part-time LCC staff member. In her free time, you will often catch her at a coffee shop, soaking up sunshine rays on the river, traveling, or finding something to laugh about.