Social media’s effects on teens

You may be wondering why I am addressing this on a prison wife blog. Social media was
a part of what led us to this life! It is a place where people can easily hide who they really
are, and what their agenda is. I learned real fast that my boys needed to understand the
dangers and respect the rules, that those rules truly are for their protection. Rules like don’t give out personal information, and always be your true self. They need to be protected not only from some of the people on the other side of the computer, but from themselves as well.  
Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. Parents use it, just like their
children. However, on average, teenagers are the ones who spend the most time on 
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and similar platforms. So, what are social media’s
effects on our teens?
Many parents are concerned about this. Some are afraid that this habit will grow into an
addiction, while others are concerned about cyber bullying, over-sharing, and dangerous
attention seeking. Then, there is the issue of everything they have access to…and who has
access to them. Is there a way to control our child’s behavior on social media, without invading
their privacy and breaking their trust?
“Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky.”

How do we know what our children are doing online?
When you speak with them about their emotions and challenges, and address
potential issues in self-esteem, you may find that social media won’t pose such a threat to 
them. Having self confidence takes away some of the FOMO (Fear of missing out) that leads
to a lot of the issues kids encounter on social media.
How do we protect our teens from negative effects of social media?
This topic is complicated, and there are no simple answers. Having a good relationship
with your teen is essential to openness in this area. Even so, you may still be wondering
how you can safely explore your child’s life on social media.
These solutions have helped us:
As teens are made aware of the consequences this habit creates you can encourage them
to reflect on these consequences. You can help them navigate life better when they have
a healthy relationship with social media and their devices.
They need to focus on the impact social media overload has on their personal, academic,
and other goals. ( The link above explains this well)
Dignify their devices. If you want to limit your child’s social media usage, and foster relationships
in the home, have set times around everyone’s devices ( that means you too, mom and dad!).
Either time limits for the day or specific times that devices are put away will keep social media
in it’s place. This will also help them find effective ways to self-regulate. They will see that their life doesn’t end if they aren’t “plugged in” non-stop. They will learn how to develop healthy and real relationships. Fear of missing out often motivates the time spent on social media. If they are being engaged at home with their family, their FOMO can be redirected! My boys would hate to miss out on wrestling in the yard with dad because they were dealing with snapchat drama!
Help them to protect their privacy. Talk about privacy settings on different social media
accounts. Some teens are not aware of this option, or the importance of each setting.
Ask about the apps. Ask your child which apps they spend the most time on. Is it Instagram, Facebook, or perhaps Snapchat? Once you find out, install those apps on your phone too, and figure out how they work. We have set times too, when we go through their devices with them. Some people say this is an invasion of privacy, but you would check on them in their room if they had a bunch of friends over, right? You would want to know if there was some stranger or bully in there amongst them gathering information or grooming them for their own agendas… when you allow social media on your kids devices, you are allowing all those people access to your kid’s bedroom – worse, to their very mind, so be aware as you would who you allow through your front door.We know that we become like those we most associate with, but we forget that social media is time hanging out with these people. We need to know who our kids are spending their time with and be able to talk with them about it.
Some apps have geolocation which can pose another real danger. Try to manage your child’s social media activity by informing them of the danger rather than imposing your opinion. Have an agreement about filters you will install for their protection. Especially for the younger teens, there are many pop ups and enticing looking ads that can send your teen down a very dangerous path. Good filter and accountability software like Covenant Eyes can be a great help to you here. As much as possible, don’t be a manager, be a mentor. Be a safe person to talk with, someone they know won’t simply judge them, but will understand how they are feeling and walk them through it.
Agree with them to accept only the followers and friends that they know personally. This is not an easy task for a teen because the number of followers is often the barometer of popularity. However, if they understand the necessity for well-managed online presence, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Talk about sexting. Parents find the infamous conversation about “The Birds and the Bees” 
just as awkward as children do. Unfortunately, now you have another level to deal with – sexting. Teens can often confuse sending explicit messages and photos for intimacy. If you offer empathy for challenges your child is facing, you can provide a listening ear and validation inside of your family, too. This will give you an insight into what your teen posts on social media and an opportunity to help them self-filter. Sexting can lead to pornography issues, which can easily become an addiction.Talk about what it means to have a healthy relationship and how to develop and maintain one.
Encourage them to have IRL relationships! Give them more opportunity for tue connection by being
a place their friends are welcome. Our boys really enjoy the times we have their friends over for
a barbeque, just cuz. We give them time to hang out with their friends outside of school. We encourage them to learn good social skills by practicing them – having fun with their friends without their devices.
Overcome social media prejudice and fear. Many parents believe that social media is completely, or almost completely, bad. However, it is neither good nor bad per se. When parents talk to their children about social media from this standpoint, the child is likely to withhold and hide information. Remember,  It’s a new form of communication and simply needs to be managed wisely. Your teen could be a voice of reason and a source of help to their peers if they choose to manage social media wisely. Help them figure out how to come along side their friends who need help without becoming embroiled in the drama so easily fostered in those settings.
Show that you care about their emotions. Teenagers want their opinions to be heard. This especially goes for the things they’re passionate or angry about. Social media offers instant feedback to their posts, which makes kids feel listened to, validated, and acknowledged. Genuine curiosity and an open mind about your child’s interest in social media can make a significant difference.
Be aware of the instant gratification aspect of Social Media, if your kids never learn about
delayed gratification it affects their whole life. Social media tends to narrow the world in their
minds, though they can communicate with people all over the globe, it doesn’t teach them how
to see the big picture in life situations. They tend to be “live for the moment, do what feels right,
let what happens happen” kind of people. This makes goal setting and life planning very difficult
for them. We have noticed it even seems to affect how kids today drive. They are easily distracted and don’t understand the concept of considering and learning from consequences.
Teach them how to protect themselves and what to expect.
When your child asks you for the first time if they can open a social media account, avoid judging them or jumping to conclusions. Accept their need to engage in such community-based way of communication, talk about it, and help them build a safe profile. You’ll never have all the information about their activity, but if you’re interested and understanding, you might get just the right amount.


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