Either your kid already has a smartphone and you feel overwhelmed trying to manage his social media, or you’re thinking of getting her first smartphone. Here are the five things you need to do right now, before things go sideways.
This is number one because communication is everything. It’s the most important thing. And there are three types of conversations you need to be having.
1. Start early. If you’re talking about stranger danger, you should be talking about being safe online, i.e., not sharing personal information, not chatting with people you don’t know in real life, being kind, and being comfortable saying “no.” And this doesn't stop when they get older - it's an ongoing conversation.
2. Explain why you’re monitoring her social media: Because it’s your job to keep her safe and guide her. You wouldn’t send her out into the world alone without first teaching necessary skills, so you won't send her into the digital world without doing the same. Sometimes that means checking in to see what she's up to. It’s not that you don’t trust her or want to read every text. You’re just doing your job. (Some families use a technology contract to set expectations. Create this together and she'll feel more in control and less likely to push back. We have a template in the subscriber section.)
3. Ask about his online life. We ask about school, work, etc. But do we ask about what’s going on online? I know this is more difficult because with most teens that will get a, “Fine.” So find a way that works with him. With mine, it was not asking any questions, unless it was about Fortnite. I showed interest in what he was passionate about at the time, and we talked about Fortnite (A lot!), but now we talk about other things, too.
Of course there’s a lot to learn about managing your kid's online life: monitoring tools, device management, texting lingo, etc. But also learn about what she's interested in. Use the apps she uses, to figure out why she loves them. (What is it with TikTok anyway?!) Knowing what she's into opens the door to conversations. Never stop learning.
Follow him on social media. Please don’t like or comment on every post he makes. (You’re welcome, teens.) Be discreet. This will help you not only talk about what he's doing, but give you insight into what he and his friends are up to.
Use the parental control tools like Screen Time and Family Link that come with every device. Then, find a monitoring tool that works for your family, like Bark or WebSafety, to manage the areas that may need your attention, like websites. Finally -- and this is important -- physically check all devices (and laptops!) regularly. Monitoring tools aren’t 100% and things may slip through. This does not mean read every text and post every day. But a quick glance at their phone for hidden apps and what they’re texting will let you know if you need to provide more guidance.
I know that seems counter-intuitive. But if you’ve laid the groundwork with the steps above and are having regular, productive conversations, there’s no need to freak out. And no need to constantly hound your kid. It’s going to be OK!
If you want to learn more about how to help your child manage technology and stay safe online, register here for our Social Media for Parents webinar on Dec 11 at 8:30 p.m.
(If you do need help, we're only a click away!)
I'm a social media professional and mom to two boys. I started Hashtag Parenting because I saw many moms and dads struggling to keep up with parenting in the changing digital landscape - including myself! The ever-changing apps, myriad monitoring solutions, and the texting lingo! Whew. I wanted to make it easier to find the most recent information, all in one place. I hope this site is a source of information and support for you. Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn by clicking the icon directly below.