If there’s one thing moms and dads can agree on, it’s that raising a teenager is hard. With all the pressures young people face these days, that’s no doubt why there are so many resources on the web dedicated to helping teens navigate their social media use. And while there’s certainly no one place to find reliable advice on how to interact with your teen on social media, the parents-are-the-cool-ones theory is a tired one. There’s no need to apologize for lecturing your tween about how she should be interacting with people online. You’re the expert. In fact, you’re (almost) always right — so here are a few simple steps you can take to keep them safe.
Be mindful of your privacy settings
Obviously, it’s important to make sure they don’t violate any of your explicit privacy settings. But there are also reasons to consider setting the settings more general and public to meet your teen’s needs. You may actually be surprised how many of your teen’s friends don’t really need your access to know how much she’s lost. On her own, they can use their iPhones to track where their friend is at any given time — not to mention how she communicates with them on various platforms, including Snapchat and Facbook.
Encourage tech-savvy conversations
Make sure your teen knows that using social media is a privilege, not a right. She should never be swayed into posting things on Instagram that she might not want her future employers to see. At the same time, she should know that her phone is her safe, private space. Whenever they feel like they’re in danger, they should ask you to help them call 911 or get in touch with an adult (and trust that you’ll do so).
Stay in touch with them regularly
Your teen isn’t a robot, and she might start wearing off some of the habits you encouraged. So don’t be afraid to share your concerns about social media with them. For example, is social media distracting you from other things you might be doing that are important to them? If it’s so bad, tell them.
Keep working with them on how they are feeling
If your teen sees you (or a friend of yours) on Snapchat trying to use some of her settings to see someone else’s location information — which isn’t safe — talk to her about it. Those kinds of overlays are becoming a bigger and bigger deal on social media sites, and there are now even apps designed to help you keep up with what’s going on in your teen’s world. Help them imagine that someone knows and cares what they are going through. Perhaps there’s no one they can turn to if they find themselves worrying about another teen, but someone will eventually read this article — so your teen should feel safe asking for advice.
It’s really important for you to know how your teen is dealing with social media, and doing it more often is one of the most helpful things you can do.
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Anastasia Victor is a content strategist, speaker, consultant, and mother of two. As the founder of Victor Media, a content marketing agency, she helps brands and people work with her to ensure they maximize their business potential. Find her on Twitter.