HELP FOR THE FAMILY | PARENTING
Children and Social Media—Part 2: Teaching Your Teenager Social Media Safety
Considering the risks involved, many parents do not allow their children to use social media. However, if you do allow your teenager to use social media, how can you help him or her both to avoid the negative effects and to learn to be a good digital citizen?
In this article
Your teenager’s priorities
What you should know: In view of the addictive nature of social media, your teenager might need your help to control the amount of time he or she spends on it.
Bible principle: “Make sure of the more important things.”—Philippians 1:10.
To think about: Does use of social media interfere with your teenager’s sleep, schoolwork, or family life? Researchers say that teenagers need about nine hours of sleep per night, but those who spend several hours a day on social media are likely to be getting less than seven hours of sleep.
What you can do: Discuss priorities with your teenager, and talk about the wisdom of limiting the amount of time spent on social media. Set reasonable rules, such as no devices allowed in the bedroom at night. Your goal is to help your teen cultivate self-control—a quality that will serve him or her well in adulthood.—1 Corinthians 9:25.
Your teenager’s emotional health
What you should know: Looking at the digitally enhanced selfies and “highlight reels” of friends’ activities can leave a young person feeling left out, anxious, and depressed.
Bible principle: “Rid yourselves of . . . envy.”—1 Peter 2:1.
To think about: Does social media use cause your teenager to make unhealthy comparisons in regard to personal appearance and body image? Does your teen feel that everyone else’s life is exciting, while his or hers is boring?
What you can do: Discuss with your teenager the dangers of comparisons. Be aware that girls may be more affected than boys, as girls tend to place more emphasis on relationship and body-image issues. You can even suggest that your teen take periodic breaks from social media. A young man named Jacob says: “I deleted my social-media app for a time. It helped me adjust my priorities as well as my view of myself and others.”
Your teenager’s online behavior
What you should know: Being on social media has been likened to living in front of a crowd. Misunderstandings and conflicts are bound to arise.
Bible principle: “Put away from yourselves every kind of malicious bitterness, anger, wrath, screaming, and abusive speech . . . Become kind to one another.”—Ephesians 4:31, 32.
To think about: Has social media caused your teenager to get caught up in gossip, conflict, or unkind speech?
What you can do: Help your teen to understand the principles of good online manners. The book Digital Kids says: “It is part of our job as parents to explicitly teach that cruelty is not acceptable in any environment—whether it’s virtual or the real physical world.”
Remember that social media is not a necessity and that not all parents allow their teenagers to use it. If you do allow your teenager to use social media, you should be sure that your teen is mature enough to set time limits, maintain healthy friendships, and avoid inappropriate content.