Social Media—Is Your Teen Ready?

Social Media—Is Your Teen Ready?

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A practical social media guide for Solo Moms

Social media, like any technology platform, can provide both positive and negative experiences. When your teen approaches you and asks to join social media, it is best to set aside some time to discuss it before simply saying yes or no. Before having that discussion, however, be sure you’ve got plenty of examples to illustrate the main points that you’d like to make.

Caution. Emphasize to your teen to be cautious about anything that he posts that could put him in harm’s way from others with bad intent. Demonstrate for your teen how easy it is to access his page from a Google search. Show him how to protect his account and share only with those whom he chooses. ESME’s article, by Nicole C. Kear, “Strategies for Internet Safety,” is a great starting point and offers practical tips that you can share with your teen.

Discretion. Explain to your teen what it is to be discrete because in today’s world of oversharing, some don’t understand what that means. It is best to give examples (pictures of kids partying, etc.), and ask her to tell you what she thinks. Share with her ways in which poor judgment can have a lasting impact on her relationships and job opportunities, among other things.

Awareness. Point out to your teen that social media is mostly about being aware. That means being aware of the impact of everything he posts about himself and whoever else might see what he’s posted. Again, examples, especially if they’re firsthand, really can have an impact.

Perspective. It’s important that your teen understands the importance of perspective and respecting other people’s feelings. Come up with examples that she might share and see one way, while someone else might take offense. Talk about what that means and how she must take time to think about everyone who will see her post before putting it on social media. Psychology Today offers a great article by Jennifer Garam to have your teen read and then discuss, “Social Media Makes Me Feel Bad About Myself.

Reassurance. Reassure your teen that social media is like any other technology. The experience depends largely on the user. If he follows the guidelines you’ve laid out for him, then he will likely have a good experience. If he throws everything you’ve discussed with him to the wind and doesn’t give it due consideration, he will likely, in time, suffer in some way as part of his social media experience.

Oversight. Lastly, and this is up to you if you tell her or not: monitor your teen’s presence on social media until you are confident she is following your guidelines. Often, new teens on Facebook, for example, will want everyone to follow them. This can include some they may forget about, and, over time, they may post things that are inappropriate or offensive to some of their followers.

As a parent, social media doesn’t have to be scary, not if you prepare your teen for the experience and provide guidance. The biggest challenge your teen might have after joining social media is time management. Teaching him how to use it as a tool and not let it consume all of his time will likely be one of your greatest challenges, but that’s an issue we probably struggle with ourselves, and just another thing to have to teach our teens how to navigate successfully.

A fourth-generation Montanan, Andre Zollars is a former U.S. army major who has also held management positions in marketing with MCI and the Sacramento Bee. She now resides in Lewistown, Montana, with her husband, four kids, three dogs, a cat, and a horse. Andre has published in print and online publications, including USA Today Travel, Yahoo! News,, Big Sky Journal, and more. You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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