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