Social media is a game changer for teenagers. It is so different than when we were kids. My clients are always shocked when I tell them I was in high school during the era of pagers, and the beginning of cell phones. They think that sounds incredibly arcane. Indeed!
Social media and texting is a necessary part of your teenager’s social development at this point. Many, many things are communicated this way. This is how they make plans, deepen friendships, and keep tabs on their friends. Before you succumb to the temptation to ban social media with your teenagers, it’s important to see its benefits. The reason this is the case is that like it or not, it’s here to stay.
After working with hundreds of teenagers in my counseling office, it seems to me the families who learn to work with social media outlets fare best. The parents who allow their teens to use these platforms, while monitoring and guiding their teens, have the best outcome. These parents use it to teach responsibility, concern for reputation, empathy, and as a means to build trust. If you make sure to have access to all your child’s various accounts, and keep at least weekly tabs on what is being posted, you will have a very solid feel for which of their friends have integrity and which lack it. Those that have integrity post things commensurate with how polite they are in front of adults. The teenagers who lack integrity are the ones who post things that we adults see as shocking or disappointing, while they act mature in front of you. You can work with your teenager to make sure they are posting things that match your expectations of them. You can also help them understand why provocative pictures, posts promoting getting high or drinking, passive aggressive posts, complaints about teachers, etc. ultimately hurt them in the long run.
It’s important to remember that social media is just another means to an end with your kids. Everything you have them do should have a bigger purpose in mind. You want to be constantly trying to use the events, people, and activities that come up in their lives to help develop them into a well-functioning adult. You want them to be thoughtful, faithful, responsible, kind, passionate, driven, etc. You use sports to teach them these things, and you can use social media to do the same. It’s not the enemy; it’s just something we didn’t grow up with so it requires us to adapt.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT