Many parents are finding it difficult to talk with their children about social media. The first thing you want to ask yourself before you confront your child with a conversation about social media is ‘do you understand the apps your child is using?’ If the answer is no, you should do some basic research about how these apps work. You can read articles about them or watch documentaries, but nothing beats making a profile and seeing how it works. You can make your own profile and add your child to see how they are using the app, or make up an entirely new persona and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Once you understand the app, you can start to think about and understand why your teen wants to be on it. Is it the approval they get from ‘likes’ or the ability they get to ‘flex’ on other kids and show off the cool things they own or do?
Now you can ask your child some questions that will better help you get to the core of the issue.
Questions to ask your teen about social media
1. How do you use this app?
Even though you have probably downloaded the app and have been playing with it to see what it does, your teen may not be using it in the same way. Ask your teen to display how they use each app, let them be the expert.
2. Why do you use this app?
Let them explain in their own words why they use that particular app
3. How does this app make you feel?
Probe a little deeper and ask about their emotions while using or after using the app. They may have never considered this before, so prompt them a little. Maybe say “to me it looks like other kids your age are putting on a bunch of makeup and poses for their posts. I remember when I was that age I did the same things (only during school) and it put a lot of pressure on my body. Do you feel that way but 24/7?”
4. What do you like and not like about these apps? Is the benefit better than the harm?
Find out what they think about the pros and cons of social media use.
After you understand your child’s mindset, share your own mindset and present a solution. Use “I” statements like “I think that all this social media is distracting you from the things you actually enjoy like drawing or soccer. I think we should limit the social media that we both use.” It’s important that you show empathy and are willing to also forgo similar apps for similar reasons so you aren’t untrustworthy in your teens eyes. This may mean setting your own personal limits on email or Youtube.
Also consider limitations around sleep and social media for you and your teen.
Finally, understand that many teens use social media because their friends are, so get to know their friends' parents, so that if you all have unity on this issue you have better odds of success.
Learn more about social media in our other article: Unsocial Media: The Impact of Social Media on Teenage Self Esteem and Communication and Unplug from Social Media.