Social media: the phrase that can strike fear, anxiety, and concern in many a parent’s heart. And that’s no surprise. With new games, platforms and apps constantly coming out, the media landscape is constantly shifting, making it nearly impossible to stay on top of. Trying to get a handle on how to help our kids stay safe, sane, and supported is a challenge!
The good news is that there is one simple step you can take to help you and your family feel more in control of your social media use: Holding regular, open family discussions.
I know, it sounds simplistic. The truth is that media is a major part of our lives that we should discuss and debate just as we do schoolwork, family plans, or current events. Regular discussion opens the door to open, honest sharing of ideas and feelings about a very complicated topic. And what we learn from each other can be supportive, comforting, and rewarding.
How to Prepare for Family Media Conversations
- Establish a regular time and place, like family dinner, where once a week you talk about what apps you enjoy, what issues you’re grappling with, and how you can help each other.
- It’s natural to shut down or become defensive when we feel challenged to explain our choices, so be curious and open to listening to what your kids share about their online interests.
- Realize that your first conversation may not yield a lot of discussion. You’re establishing a new habit and broaching an area where kids can feel judged. It may take awhile for them to see this is a supportive conversation, not a lecture or reprimand.
- A family media agreement is a document that codifies where, when, and how you use media in your household. These guidelines are created and adhered to by everyone in the family. If you don’t have one, you can find templates online. I like the one from Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org), and an interactive form from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ parenting site, healthychildren.org.
- If you do already have a family media agreement, think about reviewing it. As kids grow and media changes, you may need to make modifications.
- Start conversations with open-ended questions. Family Coach Courtney Harris suggests questions like:
- “What kinds of posts make you feel joyful?” Or conversely, “What types of posts make you feel upset?”
- “How does social media challenge you?”
- “What do you like creating online?”
- “What types of things do you use your phone for?”
- “Where will we keep our phones overnight so it doesn’t disturb our rest?”
- Delaney Ruston’s blog, Tech Talk Tuesday, is a great resource for topics. You can subscribe at delaneyruston.com/blog
- Try to just listen. It may be hard from responding with advice, criticism, or judgment. You’re encouraging your kids to talk about what they’re experiencing and feeling, which will lead to more thoughtful use of devices, as well as further conversation.
While it may not always be easy, establishing this habit with your family is an important way to establish healthy media habits. We’re always here to help. Reach out at anytime.