Social media and children – how do we prepare them going forward?

Social media and children

Those with teens are already there…the seemingly never ending intrusion and anxiety of social media is real. But what about those of us with littles, who can see what’s on the horizon, and are worrying how we are to navigate these murky waters of social media and children as the years progress?

It is that exact concern that was the focal point of a recent event held by my very good blogging from the beautiful friend Helen from Just Saying Mum  in conjunction with Jayne and Sarah from BE Integrative Therapy which looked at how we can develop a positive relationship with social media for our children.

In this immersive and intimate event we all sat and opened up our hearts and minds to the bottomless pit of social media and the concerns brought about to us by the widely publicised negative effects of social media.

I wanted to share with you some of the insights gleaned from the event about  how we, as parents, can better manage out attitudes towards social media and our children and how we can start working on the building blocks that will help strengthen our ability to handle whatever the future (or perhaps the present for some of you reading this) – whatever that may be – may throw at us.

Start with you

Think about what sort of messages you are sending to your children now. If you are always on your phone checking your social media….think about what sort of message that sends versus what you expect from your child in the future. If you are handing your phone over to them now to keep them “busy” while you do something….think about how that it going to feel in years to come when you want to take it away from them. Be the role model you want to be – wise words from my good friend over at Lucky Things.

It’s not all bad

It’s true, there are a lot of negative things about social media – that it can harm mental health and even cause emotional, social and developmental delays. But there are also good things about it too – it can provide a lifeline to some children who are ostracized if used in the right way, particularly those in minority groups. Also think about whether it would be better for them to engage on social media or roaming the streets in gangs when the time comes. This is the new norm, so we have to get used to making new comparisons too.

Keep it balanced

Social media, and technology, is here to stay. In fact, the truth is we have no idea where this is going to go over the next few years but it certainly isn’t going away. So think about how things can be balanced out. Make sure that screen time is evened out by time off screen. Make sure they have lots of different groups of friends at school, and outside of school so that if something blows up online further down the line, they will always have a safe space or group to fall back on.

Start early

Know and set your own family’s personal boundaries, set ground rules early and stick to them. Similarly, COMMUNICATION is key here so you can start early by talking to them about how on-screen is not a reality…only like a movie trailer. Be prepared in the years to come to hear things you don’t really want to hear and talk about it. Work on building your child’s self-esteem from a young age (this is even more important for girls who have huge issues with this) and give them coping mechanisms for dealing with the craziness of the online world. Again COMMUNICATION is a biggie here.

Trust yourself as the parent

Remember YOU are your own best judge and YOU are the parent. Be close to them but remember you are their parent and not their best friend. Cultivate respect, love and trust and the notion that you will also be there to listen and that they can always call on you when they are in trouble. In turn, you also need to trust your children….that way they are more likely to take control of themselves than if you are incessantly trying to control them.

Communication, communication, communication

Never underestimate the age you can start talking openly with your child. Start young to develop a culture of talking and openness in your household. Having said that, despite doing so it can be so hard to get your children to talk to you..but the key to all of this as I have mentioned above is keeping the lines of communication open. If you’re struggling to get anything out of your child the best place to talk to them is in the car and here are some great tips on getting your child to talk to you.

Be careful of your reactions (and over-reacting). Don’t preach and always give them your full attention when they want to tell you something important and if you can’t do it at that moment, set a time when you will give them your undivided attention. Take a breath and come back to things if you need to. be big enough to apologize and remember, it’s also important to give them room to breathe too.

And finally….accept it

This is how life is now. It is HARD being a parent today. And this is just one of many challenges that we have to accept as being part of our lives. Remember – in the words of my friend HashTagBadParent: the best parents are the ones who feel like they are failing because they want to be a better parent. The fact that you are reading this and worrying about this means that is you, and that already puts you streets ahead in being able to deal with these new challenges. More power to you.

So those who are scared of what is yet to come, I hope these takeaways have helped to prepare you for the coming years. We don’t really know what is to come for social media and children, so all we can do is lay solid foundations as best we can, so when the time comes, they’ll be as safe as houses.

Social media and children - how do we prepare them going forward?

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  1. This information is so useful, my daughter is 12 and unlike her friends I have limited the accounts she can have on social media. I think girls can feel more peer pressure when online x

  2. Lots of good advice, I have a teen and two pre-schoolers and my teen is always online. I try and stay off my phone with my little two around and they don’t really play on apps or anything as I want them to stay screen free for as long as possible x

  3. My mummy worries about social media and how its going to effect me when I grow up. Its horrible at the moment because of all the discontent from the election and there are some horrible trolls online. She wants me to stay offline for as long as possible. Great advice and my mummy is going to stop looking at her phone when she’s with me x

  4. Some great tip here, especially as my 3 year old now has her own tablet. I make sure to monitor what she watchews. PLus she has recently gone YouTube crazy, but it is a great comfort to know that they have a site specifically for children.

  5. Great advice. I think social media is a huge worry for parents these days but communication is key. I pride myself on having such an honest and open relationship with my son that I feel I can trust him to use social media without cause for concern. He only has Instagram and I follow him on there!

  6. Lots of super advice. It’s a tricky to get the balance right but talking together is the answer isn’t it. I always tell my boys (now big boys) not to post anything they wouldn’t want their grandparents to see!! It’s a slow burner that one!! Elinor x

  7. I am so glad that I am not a teenager as social media is a minefield for kids and I have had to deal with many any issue with my kids and it

  8. I agree Tayla- we face similar issues at home with our two young boys (10 & 13). It is part of modern life so there is no point fighting with them because it’s here to stay. We see our job as educating them and teaching them about the bigger picture where life does not fully revolve around electronic devices & social media…

  9. The internet is such a hard place at times, but it also is a great thing for kids to learn from. However with social media they are always looking for confirmation of their actions. Likes, mentioned, follows etc, thats when it becomes a problem

  10. Accepting social media as part of my son’s life has been really difficult. I didn’t want him on anything to start with. I now think that if I show him how to be safe online. How to manage and navigate it properly, that it will be beneficial rather than dangerous. The most important thing in my opinion if knowing that you can TURN IT OFF. Social Media, all of it, is optional. #CoolMumClub

  11. Mine are still little, so a long way off. It is something I worry about. But, when I was 13 I was chatting with people in chat rooms who were also claiming to be 13 and then sending me dirty photos and asking what bra size I was (flat as a pancake!) Looking back now, who knows who I was talking to!

    So, I think it’s always been a worry-kids online. The only differences are that it’s bigger now and we as parents are much more aware than mine would have been! #coolmumclub

  12. This is one of the hardest things to deal with as the Tubblet enters those teenage years. Social media wasn’t a thing when I was growing up so I’ve no experience to draw on. Thank you 🙂

  13. This is a great post. My daughter is not even 2.5 years old and I grow more aware of how I use my phone around her daily. The other day she told me “Mummy, phone down.” when I was checking a message which was eye-opening. I genuinely don’t even use it that much when she’s awake so they notice it. I don’t want her to grow thinking that’s normal and that real people come second to a device. Certainly not family.

    Thanks for sharing these fab tips. #CoolMumClub

  14. My 15 year old has experienced the ugly side of social media when it is used as a tool for bullying, and so this topic always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. We don’t know how lucky we are that it only became a thing in our later lives, I can’t imagine what my teen years would have been like with it… But these are some great tips.

  15. My youngest is 8, my eldest 12, and they both want to be more involved with social media. I have BP (eldest) asking to have a Snapchat account (not happening by the way) and my youngest wanting a phone of his own. It’s difficult as the parent to set boundaries when they see you on your phone all the time. This is why I try to not be on my phone all the time. It’s difficult but possible.
    Of course, like you said, this is how it is now. We have to get used to it.
    Great post.
    Morgan x

  16. I’m sure there will be books in the future about this. I think like anything there needs to be a healthy approach, a there is to TV, exercise and eating ETC. #coolmumclub

  17. Such an informative read on an agonising subject. Love that quote about worrying = good parent…so true.

    Can’t wait to follow my kids on facebook…better get myself an account when they have one ha ha!

    Thanks for holding the #coolmumclub flag with my Talya! x

  18. You nailed it when you said, It starts with us. They soak in our every thoughts, moves and nuances, even when we are unaware. Be present and live in the moment with the kinder (children). It matters so much, and it is better for us all. #coolmumclub xoxo

  19. We’re not there yet so I’m not sure how I’ll handle it, though we are formulating a plan. I plan to just be really honest with him and show him what I do on social. Teach him how to be safe and let him go for it, but for at least the early years he won’t be allowed to block us, his oh so embarrassing parents, from his accounts. We’ll promise not to comment so long as he promises to let us see what he’s up to. My theory is if you don’t want your mum to see it you wouldn’t want a future employer seeing it either #coolmumclub

  20. I totally agree that social media is (probably) here to stay. It’s all well and good those who say children/teens shouldn’t be on it at all, but the reality is that they’re going to be. It’s about developing positive relationships with the internet from the outset. Such an interesting read. #coolmumclub

  21. Some great tips here, sad I missed the event. Having passed through most of the social media stages now with my teens I can only endorse the importance of open communication, setting clear boundaries and being watchful. #coolmumclub

  22. Great advice and has given me lots to think about. My eldest is only 3 but I’m already worrying about what will happen when he’s a teenager, who knows what smartphones will be able to do in 10years time?! Sounds like it was a really interesting events xx #coolmumclub

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