5 Real Moms (and 1 Dad) on Their Social Media Strategies for Their Kids
You want your kids to be current, but you also want to protect them from the big bad digital world, which makes navigating whether or not to give them social media access a tricky decision. The pros of social media access, in particular for pre-teens and teens? It can strengthen friendships, provide a sense of belonging when they're grappling with something tough, and help them learn how to express themselves, according to studies. The cons? They're mostly the ones we're familiar with (sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression), plus a new biggie: Social media use for teens can become addictive and cause them to live in a world that's activated by likes, says a recent study out of UCLA. We checked in with five moms—and one dad—to hear more about their approach.
Nope, Not Even a Little
“My daughter is nine years old and we don’t allow social media at all. She has a Kindle with a couple of game apps on it and the only online game she has access to is Prodigy, a math game she plays in class at school. Apparently, my husband and I are really old-school. ‘Social’ anything for her right now is face to face or on the phone, period. She does, however, have an email account that she uses to keep in touch with out of state family and friends. She hops on one day a week to check it and return emails. (I monitor her incoming and outgoing messages.) We told her that when she turns 13, we’ll revisit our decision on her social media use.” — Katie, MA
Yes, But Only Snapchat
“I have two boys, ages 8 and 12. My eight-year-old is too young and doesn’t care about social media at this point, but my 12-year-old is in the seventh grade and wants to interact with his peers. I agreed to let him have Snapchat, which I also have access to, but he’s never on it. That said, he’s a gamer and loves YouTube. This will probably become a heated debate when he turns 13. He’s a good kid—respectful and trustworthy—but I know what’s out there. I’ll likely give in and allow him to start his own channel…and then monitor it like a madwoman.” — Ayana, MI
We're All About Monitoring Access
“My son will be 12 just before Christmas and has a Facebook account and an email address. He is *only* allowed to use Facebook to message me, his dad and his nana and papa—not for posting. And the email is for logging into certain games and YouTube, all of which we monitor his activity on. He uses pretty good judgment about what’s appropriate and what’s not, but I check his web history once a week and log into his email account and YouTube accounts weekly as well. In my opinion, communicating with him daily about what he’s doing is most important, but also trying to keep up with all the new apps and trends kids use to hide their app use is helpful, too. The only thing I struggle with: Minecraft, where they can basically be talking with anyone.” — Kate, SC
It's Not Even Up for Discussion
“My daughter is 11 and is not allowed on social media, but many of her friends have Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. She has asked to join several times, but she knows the rules are set. I have had consistent rules with social media and restrictions on internet usage her whole life, so there aren’t too many arguments. She does have an email account, but only for school work. Her cell phone screen time is restricted to three hours and I need to authorize downloading any apps.” — Matt, MA
Snapchat is Allowed...But Only On Our Phone
“My 11-year-old daughter is not allowed to have any social media accounts. She is allowed to Snapchat with her teammates from my phone under my account. She understands the rules and regularly informs me that ‘only old people use Facebook.’ So I am old.” — Lara, CA
Yes, Every Single Platform
“My 15-year-old son is on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. He’s been on social media for a while. I don’t believe it’s realistic to keep teens away from social media. Plus, in high school, they’re using Facebook groups and chats as virtual study accounts, where one is for the parents to see and the other is for their friends. What I do instead of monitoring is make sure he knows that anything he posts could wind up public at any point. There’s no such thing as privacy on social media. Also, since he was in elementary school, I’ve talked to him about how things can come across differently on text or social media than in a personal interaction. I took this approach to help him understand that if you’re joking with someone on text or social media, it might be offensive and it’s much harder to register that—and offer a sincere apology—when you’re missing a personal dynamic.
Though I know a lot of parents who have their kids’ passwords for social accounts, I don’t. I’ve always worked on a trusting relationship and allowing some personal space. If I sensed he was in trouble or participating in something upsetting, I’d pursue that route, but as long as his grades are good, he’s engaged with school and activities, and he’s not showing any signs of emotional problems, I’m OK with giving him some privacy online.” — Sam, NY