How to Prepare Your Teens for Social Media

A recent Huffington Post article titled “How to Use Social Media Like a Grown-up,” by Jennifer S. White offers some tongue-in-cheek advice for moms on social media in the form of seven tips.


While it is true some adults still have yet to learn to use social media maturely, White’s tips are particularly relevant to teens and tweens just beginning to use social media. Here are the tips, as well as ways parents can use them to teach kids about responsible social media use.


1) “Don’t use social media until consuming at least one cup of coffee.” and 2)”Don’t use social media after drinking alcohol.”

You may or may not want your kids consuming coffee on a daily basis, and hopefully your kids aren’t participating in underaged drinking, but there are plenty of other factors that cloud a teen’s judgement. Teach the social media users in your household not to post when they are feeling tired, depressed, vengeful, or anything less than clearheaded. Even feeling too cocky or twitterpated can lead to ill-advised social media activity.


3) “Pretend our boss or mother-in-law can read our social media.”

Your teen may not have a mother-in-law, but he needs to know that current and potential employers can and will see their social media activity. Coming home and posting, “I hate my job,” or “My boss sucks,” for example, is can have dramatic consequences nowadays. Share with your teens and tweens stories of people fired from social media activity, and remind them to it could easily happen to them.


4) “Share news off-line first.”

Young people today are so immersed in technological interaction that they might not realize some people are offended by receiving news through social media. Making announcements in person can strengthen relationships, and you get the benefit of seeing the other person’s real-time reaction.
5. “Protect privacy that is not ours.”

Revenge porn is the most dramatic example, but social media users can violate others’ privacy in other ways as well. Encourage your children to keep private information off-line, and remember the golden rule when tagging friends on social media.
6. “Take time to unplug.”

There are many, many reasons to set aside technology for a while. As the article notes, the Facebook effect (feeling depressed or discontented after using social media) is real. Share the research with your kids, and encourage them to identify those emotions and take a break from online life. “Phubbing” (snubbing others by pulling one’s phone during face to face social interactions) is also becoming a significant issue in today’s relationships.


7) “Contemplate selfie usage.” 

The main two considerations for teen selfie usage are content and number. Remind teens and tweens that their social media accounts are  increasingly becoming how the general public will see them. A suggestive selfie sends a message about the poster’s values, boundaries, and desired reputation. As for the number of selfies, if your teen is posting or taking an excessive number of selfies, you may need to figure out where the fixation stems from.


As you are preparing your teen and tween to enter the world of social media, set them up for success in this areas just as you would in any other area. Their social media image is becoming more and more equivalent to their public image. Taking the time to educate kids and teens in social media etiquette will definitely pay off, and will give them the tools to present themselves with confidence and grace both online and off.


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