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How Do I Help My Family Navigate Social Media?

I once heard a parent describe keeping up with social media to running up and down the beach to touch every wave that comes ashore. Just when you feel like you understand one app you can rest assured that more waves will come crashing into your left and right. How are we as parents to help our teens navigate social media when we cannot seem to keep up with it ourselves? The good news is you do not have to know it all in order to make a difference where it matters most. Here are a few principles to help guide social media practices in your home.

  1. Keep Engaged – The frustration of navigating social media has led many parents to take a hands off approach and give free reign to their teenagers in all things social media. Research constantly reminds us as parents to stay engaged for the sake of our teenagers spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being. One survey (360 Family) reported that 88% of teenagers witnessed what they considered to be cruel behavior on social media outlets. Be mindful how your teen acts after engaging social media will help you notice any behavioral changes that may point to something harmful.

  2. Keep Informed – While the latest and greatest social media platforms will always be changing, you can stay informed by checking in through helpful resources such as, common sense media, or 360 Family. There are also a number of helpful books available that provide further guidance in all areas of technology and social media. Take time to understand the basics of the social media platforms your teenager uses to engage their friends and help them leverage these platforms in a healthy manner.

  3. Keep Talking – The greatest resource you have to better understand social media better is your teenager! If you approach the topic with genuine interest rather than controlling they will likely be willing to share with you their understanding and perspective about using social media. Ask open questions like “What do you like about this social media platform?” or “ What concerns would you have about it?”

There are a number of conversations you will need to have with your teen regarding social media. Here are three critical conversations every parent needs to lead in regard to social media engagement.

  1. Understanding Digital Footprints – Many social media platforms say they offer privacy and anonymity, but your teen needs to understand that what they post can be traced back to them. They often feel like the footprints they leave are like those in the sand but they are far more permanent than they realize.

  2. Learning Wise Communication – Have a conversation about communication skills to help your teenager know how the content they share comes across to others.  Always be mindful that the things you post on social media are a window into your testimony of faith. The wrong words or photo can publicly tear apart what God has been trying to do through you with others. Talk about how to use social media wisely.

  3. Knowing Your Identity – A common struggle many have with social media is obsessing over likes and follows. Our bodies are even wired to provide a chemical release of dopamine when we receive alerts that notify us someone “liked” something we shared. This physical response is the same as when your teenager wins money or eats chocolate, which can be powerful and habit forming. We must help them to recognize their value and identity in Christ or they will live only for the affirmation of others. We must also be rooted in God’s word and our identity to develop healthy rhythms of unplugging from social media.

It may be no walk along the beach, but you’ll be glad you invested in guiding your teen to navigate social media.