Parenting and Social Media
Let’s talk about parenting in the age of social media. Not only do our children use social media, but we do too. Because of that, our parenting journey and the online world are incidentally intertwined. And unfortunately, this can be super stressful to navigate, because social media just hasn’t been around long enough for us parents to know exactly how to handle our family’s online lives.
There is no parenting manual on social media (though, this episode of Shenanigans with Scheana Shay comes close.) So, no one expects you to get everything right and know what to do in every situation. Well, no one expects that but you! Anyway, If you’re interested in learning more about social media through the parenting lens, read on. We’re here to help you steer your parenting through the challenges of the internet. Here we go:
Parenting and Social Media
Parenting in the Age of Social Media
When we were young, things were different. A lot of things were different! Social media didn’t burst into the scene until we were in our teens or twenties, and even then it wasn’t what it is now! Every social platform today has millions of users, dozens of functions, and a whole network of influencers promoting their lifestyles or showcasing their experiences.
Now, that’s the good of it, but there are some clear drawbacks to using social media that I’m sure you’re aware of. The average person spends 2.5 hours a day on social media, and that number is increasing every year. Additionally, ⅓ of women claim that the first thing they do in the morning is checking social media, and these online platforms contribute to 66% of divorces. Yikes!
If all that wasn’t alarming enough, from the parenting side of things: 87% of bullied teens say it started online. And, studies show excessive time on social media in teens leads to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Yet, getting left out of the social media game can isolate them from peers and other benefits of the connected online world.
So, knowing the drawbacks of social media and the inevitability of social media, how do you handle it? How does it affect your parenting journey? And, what can you do to help your teen and protect them from the dangers of the world wide web? Let’s discuss this.
Effects of Social Media on Parent’s Parenting
The effects of social media aren’t all bad. If that were the case, there’s no way any of us would be on it! Here are several upsides to using social media while being a parent:
Social media has a lot of resources that help your parenting journey as Chazz Lewis explains in this episode of Raising Good Humans with Dr. Aliza. Online, you can learn about productive parenting styles, discover common disorders, and learn essential safety information.
When moms and dads browse parenting social media pages, they open their minds to tactics that they normally wouldn’t have known about. You might find a gentle parenting method that allows you to better connect with your child. You may discover a car seat safety tip you never knew about. Or, you may find medical advice that changes the way you handle your child’s disability. The point is, the internet can be a great place to learn and broaden your horizons!
Connection After High School
When your child moves out (we know, you don’t want to think about that yet – but still), they probably won’t pick up the phone and call that often. It’s not personal. It’s just not the way the world connects anymore! Getting on social media, though, allows you to stay connected to your graduate daily.
You can see where they are and what they’re doing and also instant message, call, and video chat with them right there. You’ll see new pictures and overall get way more updates than you ever would over text! This isn’t only true for your growing kids, but with social media, you can also stay connected to friends and family members who live far away!
Available Support Networks
No matter what your unique parenting challenge is, you can find an internet support group to help you through it. There are groups for parents of twins, parents of kids with specific medical challenges, parents of bullied children, and more! If you don’t know how to navigate your struggles, find a group online that’s there with you.
Building your child’s self-esteem is a powerful way of fortifying them for the future. Kids who know their value feel confident and capable. They have growth mindsets, easily bounce back from mistakes, and stand up for themselves. Of course, there are lots of ways of building your child’s self-esteem, but one way to do it is to celebrate on social media!
When parents share a child’s accomplishment on their Facebook or Instagram, it further reinforces how proud you are of them. They’ll also know that their best is always enough and that their successes are worth celebrating.
For all of the social media’s positive impacts, there are double the negative effects. It’s hard to be a parent in the digital age! Here are some things you’re probably struggling with as a parent on social media:
Envy and Comparison
Social media can be totally toxic to our own mental health and self-esteem. Dr. Cole talks about this in this episode of his podcast The Art of Being Well. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to other parents and then feel inadequate, leading to a deterioration of mental health over time. Yet, a lot of what we see on social media isn’t even real! With social media, we can easily feel like we’re never doing enough.
How many times a day do you check your social media channels? Probably a lot. It’s easy to get sucked into the infinite scroll when you have a spare moment. Unfortunately, this disconnects you from the valuable time you could be spending with your kids.
Of course, it’s all about balance. You’re totally allowed to have decompression time. But, check out what Nicole Walters says about balancing it all in her podcast episode “Take Back Your Space.”
Breeds Inauthenticity and Perfectionism
Your kids went on that vacation. They know it wasn’t the magical family experience you shared on social media. Also, your kid remembers how they tried to quit soccer three times and they know they’re not the “dedicated and committed” person you posted about after their tournament this weekend.
The point is, your preteens and teens see what you post and they know the truth. If your posts bend the truth and show your family through a filter, your children will pick up on that inauthenticity. And, the pressures of perfectionism will sneak in with every exaggerated post. If you want to hear more about this, Dr. Aliza discusses this at length in this episode of Raising Good Humans.
When we were young, dreaming of being on Disney Channel or MTV’s Top 40 was a fun fantasy, but totally out of reach for most young people. However, the internet has made it totally possible for ANY person to become a star.
This hunger for fame could put a child on social media at risk. What will they do to get those followers? Or, the real question is, how far will they go to be liked? And, if they do hit it big, how the heck do you handle that? Luckily, Being Bumo interviewed the mother of two popular TikTok stars and asked all the need-to-know questions about raising social media stars. Check it out here!
Social Media Tips for Parents
Encourage offline activities early on.
To successfully raise your child in the digital age, you must teach them to value the analog! Minimize screen time when they’re children, put them in lots of situations to have face-to-face conversations, and go on all sorts of offline adventures!
If you can activate a love for the outdoors, a creative hobby, or any other non-internet activity, it’ll be much easier for you to appropriately manage your child’s social media intake when they’re older. In fact, it’ll be easier to manage their screen time period!
Set a good example and engage without the phone.
Lead by example. When you’re spending quality time with your child, whether you’re going out to dinner, attending an event, or just hanging out watching TV, put the phone down. Show your child that you care about them and you value the moment. This will teach them to do the same when spending quality time with their friends and family!
Keep them off social media for as long as possible.
There is no reason your child needs to have a social media account. Like, there is no reason at all. Of course, we’re not saying you’re a bad parent if you let them on a social media platform. But, sometimes the world likes to tell you kids without social media are deprived of connection and “missing out.”
Sure. They are missing out. Missing out on the comparison game. Missing out on cyberbullying. And, missing out on making poor online choices that’ll affect them forever. This way of thinking about social media was first thought up by Mark Berkman, and you can hear more about it in the Being Bumo podcast in the episode titled “Let’s Discuss Social Media.”
There is no “right” time to start, but don’t think the minute your kid hits puberty, they need to be on Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. You make the choice based on your fears, your child’s maturity, and your social environment. When you think it’s safest, go ahead and make the jump if you want, but you have no obligation to do what other parents are doing.
Set limits and supervise.
Notice how we said to let them on social media when you feel it’s “safest.” It’s never really safe on social media. So, make sure you set limits for your child and supervise using monitoring software. Maybe your child can only be on social media on a shared computer. Or, maybe phones get turned off at 9:00 pm. Setting limits can reduce the exposure to dangerous web content and it can prevent social media addiction.
Communicate expectations and teach reality.
Be frank with your child about online safety. Tell them what they may encounter, explain how people might manipulate them, and ensure they understand that the internet is forever. Oh, and tell them, for the love of all things good in this world, don’t click that sketch link someone DM’d you.
Once your child has a realistic understanding of the online world, set your expectations. What kind of pictures are they allowed to post? Who are they allowed to message? What platforms are they allowed to use? Make all this known early on, so there is no misunderstanding and no backtracking. This will prevent arguments as well as protect your child.
Remind yourself this is an expressive platform.
Though you want to limit your child’s exposure to the internet, you don’t want to be too restrictive. This may promote lying and acting out. Remember that as your child develops their online persona, they will be expressing themselves in a way you might not like.
Maybe your smart teen is posting some really dumb things. Maybe the way they pose for pictures you find distasteful. And, maybe the way they interact with their friends doesn’t reflect the kid you know. Don’t forget the parent-child dynamic, and if there’s nothing strictly harmful, try to let it go. Let them express themselves.
Discuss online friendships.
It’s common for people of all ages to make friends on social media sites. This can be incredible for kids who struggle to make friends. If your child has unique interests or a unique personality, they can easily find people online that share their lifestyle! This is a huge positive to your child is on social media.
However, this has a significant downside if you’re not careful. The internet is full of bad people ready to tear your kid down or exploit them. Be open to your child about this possibility. Teach them about red flags and how to safely navigate an online relationship. Also, encourage honesty between you and them regarding their online community.
Build your child’s self-esteem.
Building your child’s self-esteem is one of the best ways to ensure their online safety. A child with high self-esteem won’t be phased by cyberbullying attempts, won’t seek unhealthy companionship, and won’t compromise their values when pushed. Though high self-esteem doesn’t negate the necessity of monitoring equipment and open communication, it does go a long way!
How do you use social media? Take time to evaluate your consumption. Not only can you set a better example by putting the phone down from time to time, but you can provide social media advice and instruction if you have an awareness of your situation. Do you consume content when you’re stressed? Do you post unauthentically? Or, do you seek attention through your online platforms?
Take time to listen to “How We IG” from the A Thing or Two podcasts. These women open up about how they engage in social media, and it offers the perfect platform for reflection and change. Set standards for your kid’s social media use, and set standards for yourself.
Parenting in the world of social media is stressful, but you can set good boundaries for your family using this guide!
Social media is a blessing and curse for all of us. However, if we utilize online platforms mindfully, we can push out a lot of the negatives and engage in the positives! Make sure as a parent you don’t accept “the norm” at face value. Your child doesn’t need social media. They don’t even need a smartphone or access to the internet!
It’s totally your call. Just approach your decision with love and understanding. Your child’s character is more important than their popularity or acceptance. Remember that when you’re setting your boundaries with social media, the goal is to protect your children and never stop growing yourself. What goals can you make for your own social media use this week? Let us know in the comments, and check back weekly for more helpful posts!