At Compass Rose, many of the families we work with struggle with social media-related issues. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other similar sites are a major part of most teenagers’ lives, and in many cases, are online tools used for more than simple social interaction. Many school activities, clubs and church youth groups use social media, so forbidding access can be problematic. However, it’s important that parents learn how to supervise — and protect — their teens online, while still allowing them privacy and the freedom to make good choices.

Use of social media requires some maturity and understanding of responsibility. Once information or photos are uploaded to the Internet, they can never truly be deleted. Most teens fail to understand this important fact and don’t think before they post.

The perceived anonymity of the Internet also emboldens many teens. People feel safe doing things online they would not ordinarily do in person. This often results in teens participating in age-inappropriate online activities including sexual talk and photo sharing. Unfortunately, other Internet behaviors carry even more risk: Some teens may even make plans to meet strangers they encounter online in person.

Often, social media-related problems aren’t this extreme. Some teens feel pressure to keep up with everyone else — pressure to get as many “Likes” as other friends’ pics or posts, pressure to be visible in pics to show they were at a party and a constant need to comment on others’ posts to validate each other.

Social media also can have an addictive quality — it’s hard to stop. Once the device is on, it’s hard to pull oneself away. Teens who become overinvolved online may even want their parent to set limits because they can’t manage it alone.

To help combat the hold social media has on your teen, set aside family time that does not involve technology. For example, set specific limits and expectations for supper time — no phones or texting at the table. Broader stipulations are also important: Give your teens a specific bank of time each day or week for social media. Monitor their online footprint, and regularly check their usage to make sure they aren’t visiting inappropriate websites or engaging in suggestive discussion and other sexual online activities.

From a young age, it’s important that parents not use technology as a babysitter. It is convenient to allow kids to be online or on the phone for hours on end so you can get some work done in the office or around the house, but this not only encourages bad habits, it detracts from the time kids have free for more active and engaged play.

If your teen has made poor choices online or you have questions about how to parent through social media problems, we can help. Please contact us today.