• Dr. Luisa Bryce

To friend or not to friend: 3 effective tips for sharing social media with your teen


While parents may assume teens aren’t concerned about their internet privacy, the CNN article points out that teens are actually quite savvy when it comes to managing their public profiles and “who sees what” online. While teens are less concerned about their privacy being compromised by scam artists, they care a great deal about managing their reputation amongst friends. If you’re similar to most parents,  you’re likely not quite as tech savvy as your teen, which can leave you feeling a little hopeless and lost as you struggle to navigate the abstract boundaries of the online world in order to keep tabs on your child…. however, I’m saying it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to be made to feel hopeless or lost. Yes, as a parent in the twenty-first century, I encourage you to be somewhat competent when it comes to social media. Not only so you don’t look totally old-school in front of your teen, but also for your own benefit in your personal and professional relationships. BUT you don’t have to be as tech savvy as your teen. You can give up that control AND worry a lot less if you simply follow these three guidelines:

ESTABLISH TRUST

Don’t be a hypocrite. If you want to trust your teen, you must model trusting behavior yourself. This means not sneaking around and checking your teen’s online profiles and accounts without her knowledge, unless you’ve both agreed that’s ok. Set clear rules about social media as soon as possible. For some parents and teens, this means being friends on Facebook and allowing each other full access to information. For other families, this may mean not being friends at all. I suggest honoring your teen’s request if she tells you she doesn’t want to be friends with you online because she feels embarrassed. Part of being a teenager is feeling embarrassed by your parents. It’s normal. However, let your teen know this does mean you can periodically check her online accounts, with her knowledge. Sit down together and ask your teen to show you her profiles. If she violates your trust by posting something inappropriate, you’ll have to renegotiate the terms of your deal.

SUCCESS IS THE GOAL

Talk to your teen about how your main goal in life it to raise a successful, well-adjusted, confident son or daughter. Discuss the amazing benefits of involvement in social media networks so your teen knows you’re not against technology or “stuck” in the past. Let your teen know that setting limits around social media and being somewhat involved in her online world is part of your job as a parent. Communicate what matters most, your overall goal for your teen: You want her to grow up to be her very best. Social media can certainly play a role in that, if it’s used appropriately and honestly.

BE A PARENT, NOT A FRIEND

Your teen will have many friends throughout her lifetime, but only one Mom and Dad. Act like a parent, not a friend. Set limits around social media that are consistent with your family values, not driven by fear or worry. Research demonstrates that when parents set limits around electronics, children listen. The Norton Online Family Report found that teens actually want parents to set limits for them when it comes to online use, with the majority of teens stating they want to feel they can turn to their parents for help if things go wrong online.

Whether you like it or not, social media is a part of life for your teen that isn’t going anywhere. Better to figure out how to embrace it and coexist.

Do you have an effective tip for sharing social media with your teen? Harmony At Home wants to know.

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