Strong Girls Can: Social Media for Tweens and Teens

StorngGirlsCanComputers

When I was in eighth grade, I ate an entire row of Oreos in one day. I dunked those little cream-filled cookies in milk, and when the perfect sogginess was achieved, I popped each cookie in my mouth. Again and again and again and again.

Later that day, I felt sick. The Oreos were delicious. I just had too many. If I would have stuck to two or three cookies, I wouldn’t have been nauseous.

When I think of social media and tweens and teens, I think about those Oreos. Snacking on social media can be fine, binging on social media leaves us ill.

As a parent, I want to stick the cookies (or anything else which could harm my kids) on the top shelf of our food pantry, out of sight and out-of-reach. However, I know placing hard things out-of-reach is only a temporary fix. My kids are resourceful. They can slide a chair over to the pantry, place a stool on top of the chair, stand on their tiptoes, and snag what they want anyway, just ask me about the old Easter candy.

Social media isn’t going away. So, how do we teach our kids to snack on it in a healthy way?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, social media is bad for kids

There is no lack of research telling us about the dangers of unsupervised social media use by teens and tweens.

News outlets share stories of sexting, cyber bullying, secret accounts, and teens whose wobbly self-esteem balances on the number of likes achieved in one day, but let’s talk about the positive aspects of social media.

I don’t want to have this conversation.

I would actually rather pull a splinter out of my eye. Believe me when I say, I want my girl to head out to our front yard, make forts, and climb trees all the live long day. I’d really like it if she would forget about social media and take up canning or possibly calligraphy.

But that’s not reality, and I know the hardest conversations are often the best conversations. So, let’s do this thing.

5 Positive Aspects of Social Media

1.  Social media is a way for kids to be social. Like it or not, social media is another way kids socialize. When we were their age, we picked up the phone and had awkward conversations. Our kids comment on and like photos. It allows them to create stronger bonds with people they already know.

2.  Supervised independence. While watching my favorite neighbor boy’s last baseball game, I heard a mother talking not-so-quietly with her son.

“I saw what you posted, and I want you to know I read every word you write, and every comment your friends write!”

Bam! Good job, good mama. Good job. If we stay actively engaged with our kids social media accounts, we can catch glimpses of how our children act when we aren’t around.

3. Campaigns and conversations for good. Positive campaigns and conversations initiated by teens are happening via social media.

4.  A platform for your girl to share her voice. Some of my daughter’s friends make videos about evangelizing. These videos come complete with songs, dancing, and acting. The videos are well thought out, and are not prompted by adults.

5.  Encourage hobbies and interests. The Do-It-Yourself tutorials are endless. I am not interested in crafts, but my girl is, and she can watch a YouTube video to teach her how to make a fringe T-shirt or an oragami bird.

5 Ways to Help Your Girl Navigate Social Media

1.  Talk about the word “stranger”. This video of moms and daughters is the perfect conversation starter.

2.  Start small. We let my daughter have a Pinterest account. It’s not exactly hip among the tween crowd, but it gives her a little of the freedom she desires, and as parents, we get to ease into social media.

3.  Keep up-to-date. Do you know about Secret? YikYak? Snapchat? If you find it overwhelming to keep up with the latest and greatest apps and platforms, consider following sites who do the work for you. Two I follow are Common Sense Media and iParent.

4.  Consider drawing up a social media contract. This is a contract we like. It talks about not sharing passwords, online expectations, and consquences for not following the contract.

5.  Be a good role model. Teach your girl about snacking on social media and not binging. This means putting our phones down too.

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Your turn. How are you handling social media with your girl? What guidelines have you set-up? Any tips? Tricks? Resources?

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StrongGirlsCan7

Every Monday we discuss topics related to raising strong girls. Did you see 88 Acts of Independence and Adventure from last week? Up next week is information on a photo contest for teens and tweens complete with a guest judge and prizes. See you next Monday!

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  • Michelle Slomp

    The only social media that my kids are allowed is Youtube. We have limited what they can watch (mostly videos about minecraft). When I see them watching something questionable I talk to them about why probably not the video they should be watching. We have kept the rule about Facebook, blogging, twitter, etc…about age. The sites’ rules say 13 that means you have to wait until you’re 13. Kinda like driving. Thank you Amy for this series. I am already enjoying it.

    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Michelle,
      I’m with you on the COPPA regulation, and pushing them off until they are 13!

      Youtube is interesting. I think I could write an entire post on Youtube. It’s not the questionable content that boggles my mind, it’s all of the twen and teen YouTubers who have actual channels with MILLIONS of subscribers. Crazy! I’d say it is THE post popular among the teens and tweens. Where else can you find puppies AND watch someone eating jellybeans which taste like dog food (Jelly Bean Challenge!).

  • Ah, it is hard raising children in our current world. Social media can be used as a good thing, as you have pointed out, but it can also be bad. Parents have to be involved and vigilant in monitoring their children’s online activities. Your suggestions may certainly help parents keep up their children’s social media movements.

  • bluecottonmemory

    I love this Amy – going to share it with my community!

    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Thank you! Hope writingis going well.

  • THIS IS SO GOOD, Amy. I am bookmarking this so I can refer to it myself, and share again and again.

    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Thanks! I know these ideas are just a start, but it feels good to somewhat have a plan. Ha!

  • Hey Amy, I wonder if you’ve heard of this book that a friend of mine wrote called Kindness Wins. (Link below). An entire book dedicated to the subject and it really helped me to prepare my pre-teen (and eventually the younger children) for using social media correctly. You obviously have a great plan in place, but I thought I’d let you know if you wanted to go deeper. She even talks about some of the hashtags that are current right now. http://www.amazon.com/Kindness-Wins-Galit-Breen/dp/1620158884/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433793291&sr=8-1&keywords=kindness+wins

    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Jennie,
      How cool! Sounds like your friend’s book is something I would totally be intereted in! I will check it out.

  • Lisa Van Engen

    Such good stuff Amy! Thank you. I let Ellie have a pinterest board on mine too. These are great guidelines and ideas, because you are so right, it’s not going away.

    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Ah, yes. Pinterest, a good start. They can pin crafts and pictures of kittens until their hearts can no longer take the cuteness.

  • Fortunately for me (depending on how you look at it because it means I am old…) the only social media around when our daughter was in Jr. High was My Space. Now that she is grown and coaching a group of high school cheerleaders, I have to say that many well meaning parents are clueless about what goes on with social media so your words here are so important. Keeping up to date is a definite key. Many high school parents here are on Facebook and the kids know that so they post their most telling “happenings” on Twitter and Snapchat. We always kept our computer in a common space so our daughter knew that at any time we might happen by : ) Love that you are doing this series – important and timely topics!

    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Hey Mindy!
      Ahhh, My Space. Those were the good ‘ol days…when some new app wasn’t appearing every day! Kids are super smart. Posting in different places and with different accounts is pretty common here too! I know lots of kids who have two Instagram accounts. Both the parent-friendly version, and the version they actually share with friends! I like what you say about keeping your computer in a common place. I keep meaning to move ours, but writing-wise, I am desperate for a door! Thanks for popping in!

  • Talked about this very thing today on my blog! Great stuff here Amy. I’m still waffling about You Tube/Vimeo. I’m having a hard time getting an account set up through net nanny for some reason.

    • Amy L. Sullivan

      And, I am off to read your post…