Focus on the Family

Unplugged: Tips to Control Your Child’s Social Media

A wise parent will always know more about social media than their children.

Controlling your child’s social media may seem daunting, however, it’s a reality even Christian parents face daily.

I recently, informally, surveyed several Christian parents of tweens and teenagers. I wanted to learn about the current challenges they, and their children, face. Their top concern was managing social media.

Girls, interestingly, tend to frequent social media platforms more than boys, who spend much of their time online gaming. Many parents feel helpless regarding how to manage their children’s internet access, but rest assured, there is hope.

The ‘iGen’: The New Role of Smart Devices in Your Child’s Development

Many social scientists have noted a watershed moment causing an abrupt change in teen behaviors around 2012. What was so significant about that period? 2011-2012 marked the time when Americans began to widely own cell phones.

Social psychologists and researchers have termed this generation the iGen. In the latter part of 2015, two-thirds of teens owned an iPhone. It’s almost as if Apple, and other smart device providers, monopolize pre-adolescent and adolescent thought and behavior. Since that time, individuals across age groups – toddlers, preschoolers, tweens, teens, and parents – have been engrossed in the global connectivity offered by these devices.

Shaping Modern Attitudes and Values

One of the most concerning shifts, is the development of a new type of individualism, seemingly leading to the rejection of traditional values. This emerging generation distinguishes itself by its unique use of time, behavior, and attitudes towards sexuality, religion, and politics, largely due to exposure to various internet platforms.

Traditional modes of socialization, such as youth groups, school, sports, and involvement in community and church activities, are often deemed irrelevant. This is partly due to the freedom and allure of crafting one’s persona online.

The Adverse Impacts of a Child’s Social Media Exposure

Shifts from community-centered to individual-centered living are evident in the rise of young people preoccupied with safety and fear for their future. Moreover, the pandemic has triggered the worst mental health crisis in years.

Experts from various fields report an alarming increase in depression and anxiety among children. While some feel our children are maturing too quickly, there’s growing concern that the opposite is happening. Instead of children progressing through typical developmental stages, we see 18-year-olds behaving like 15-year-olds and 13-year-olds acting like 10-year-olds.

At the other extreme, we have children exposed to violence, inappropriate sexual content, and countless other negative influences.

This generation seems less likely to venture out without their parents. Traditional adolescent milestones like dating are declining, and direct face-to-face contact seems to be going extinct. Communication has transitioned from this time-honored tradition to a blend of texting and social media posts.

Despite our culture’s turmoil, we as parents, grandparents can still exert a powerful, positive influence on our children. With the Lord’s help, we can be a rock for our children and grandchildren.

Exercising Parental Control in Managing Social Media Access

Remember, their phones and smart devices belong to you!

The last time I checked, owning a cell phone required being 18 and having the financial capacity to pay for it. Since your kids don’t meet these criteria, their phone is on loan from you. They are stewards of the property you allow them to use.

Remember, you are the parent, not their friend or buddy.

You have every right to manage their use. Are there many good things that happen after 10:00 pm? One solution could be to have all devices kept out of their rooms after a certain time. Many tweens and teens take their phones to bed, which can lead to unwelcome distractions and interruptions.

Effective Strategies: Tips for Influencing Your Child’s Social Media Use

  1. Begin with yourself. How distracted are you by social media and your device? How much screen time do you consume daily? As children often mirror their parents’ actions, ensure you are modeling responsible use of social media.
  2. Set predictable and enforceable ground rules for social media. You might even consider limiting social media usage to large screens in communal areas of your home. Some surveys show that teens spend up to nine hours a day on social media.
  3. Know how to set and control parental controls on devices. Your internet provider and cell phone company can assist with this. Many service providers offer parents ways to disable their internet with simple commands. The restriction can be house-wide or device-specific. Also, ensure your children’s devices’ location settings are off to prevent companies and individuals from tracking them.
  4. Set clear rules about internet safety, such as not revealing full names, the schools they attend, and home addresses. Teach your child about internet predators and how to evade them.
  5. Delay access for pre-teens. For instance, Facebook’s age limit is 13.
  6. Monitor the amount of their screen time.
  7. Educate them about online safety and information sharing.
  8. If your child has a social media account, make sure you are friends with or follow them.
  9. Be diligent, not paranoid. Periodically check the apps on the phone you allow them to use. Remember, it’s your phone.
  10. Have a “shared computer” in a public space in your home and allow your child age-appropriate privacy.

Safeguarding Your Child on Social Media: The Importance of Prayer, Monitoring, and Communication

Pray for them and yourself along with their protection and for the development of self-control. Keep communication lines open with them. If needed, find a competent, faith-friendly counselor to work with you and your child.

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