Raising children, particularly teenagers, can almost be as challenging as going through puberty again! (We now understand what our parents were so stressed about).
During these difficult years, it can be hard to know how to connect with teenagers when their hormones are kicking in – especially if the parents have become the enemy. It’s not uncommon for children to retreat into themselves and shut their parents out; leaving them wondering whether their child is happy, if they’re being responsible or what’s going on in their life.
Social Media: Friend or Foe?
Since Mark Zuckerberg launched his Facebook baby back in 2004, social media has completely infiltrated our lives; we share photos, provide updates on how we’re feeling, wish people happy birthday, get in touch with old friends, form new friendships and even romantic relationships. This enhanced level of communication has had its benefits for teenagers – helping them to express themselves in a public forum and also get a better sense of who they are.
Although, on the reverse it has also made them more susceptible to issues such as online bullying – bringing a new set of concerns for parents. For non-IT savvy parents, this may cause a bigger generation gap, leaving them wondering, what does my child do on these sites and are they safe?
According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 22% of teenagers log onto their favourite social media site more than 10 times a day, while 75% own mobile phones – given these large numbers – it’s important to talk about some of the dangers around social media.
We teach our children not to talk to strangers; extend this conversation to engaging with people they don’t know online.
For example, “You wouldn’t talk with someone you don’t know in the street, so don’t accept invitations to be friends online with people you don’t know either.”
It’s not about scaring your child, it’s about informing them of the potential dangers and talking about them openly as you would in any area of their life.
It’s important to talk to your children about cyberbullying, so if it does occur, they’ll know how to deal with it better. Talk to them about what bullying is and open up the lines of communication so that they know they can talk to you if it does occur.
Over the last few years, there have been some terrible cases regarding social media bullying amongst teenagers which have made headlines across the world. One of which was a teenage boy who committed suicide because of online bullying, prompting Lady Gaga to step in and start campaigning against bullying.
This is an extreme case, although as a parent, it’s important to communicate with your child and make them understand that bullying is never acceptable and that they don’t need to put up with it.
Social media may not be your thing, but if you have children using these sites, it pays to get an understanding of how they work. If your child is in their early teens – you may want to make an agreement with them – suggest you have to be online “friends” if they want to use social media sites. This way you can monitor their usage and their interaction, although as they get older, it’s important to give your child space and let them manage their own relationships.
Is your child old enough to be on social media sites? Facebook for example, has an age restriction of 13 years and up, so make sure you’re child is old enough to be using the site and respect these rules.
Do you have a rule about how much TV your child can watch, or how often they can go out? Enforce similar restrictions around social media so it doesn’t dominate their life and interfere with their homework or school.
Therefore, when it comes to you talking to your child about social media, it doesn’t have to be a daunting issue. As with any parenting concern, it’s always important to communicate openly with your child about any issues you have, why you have them and what your expectations are. They may not always like the boundaries you set or understand why you’re making these seemingly unfair rules (as we didn’t with our parents!) however it will provide you with an opportunity to educate your child and get an insight into their usage and any issues that may arise.
Have you spoken to your child about some of the issues around social media? We’d be interested to hear what you discussed and of any rules you’ve put in place.