Keeping Up with Your Social Media-Savvy Tween

Quick tips for social media monitoring.

Posted Sep 08, 2019

Supersizer/iStock
Source: Supersizer/iStock

Her fingers work like lightning on her phone keyboard as she chats with her friends. It takes you 10 minutes to get one simple text out; your thumbs just don’t work that quickly. At the tender age of 12 she already knows her way around the digital world. She seems to possess a wealth of knowledge far beyond what you did at her age. How can you monitor her activities in the digital world if you always feel a step behind what’s hot and what’s not? It would be easy to step back out of fear. After all, isn’t ignorance bliss? The reality is, however, that kids need rules, limits, boundaries and, of course, consequences. It helps them safely negotiate the world. And although your tween may be far more social media savvy than you are, you can and should be monitoring her social media behavior.

Keeping up with apps

It is true that apps come and go. It’s survival of the fittest in the social media world, and it is the users who decide who stays and who goes. Keeping up can feel like an arduous task. Your tween however, is always your best resource. When you turn to your tween for this information, you are also empowering her, building up her self-esteem. It feels good to be an authority on something especially when it’s your parent who is asking.

Monitoring is a must

Don’t contemplate if you should be monitoring your tween’s social media, contemplate how. Tweens are at that important stage in life when they are just beginning to become aware of the outside world. Development at this stage varies from individual to individual. Your own child’s maturity level should in part guide how you monitor as well as how much. It is recommended that you insist on having access to any and all social media sites your tween is engaging with. The best way to do this is to have all their passwords. Some parents may choose to forbid any engagement on social media platforms. Another option is to allow access only on a parent’s devices. For example, instead of allowing your tween to download TikTok or Instagram, you download it on your phone or tablet. This ensures limited use that is always monitored.

Set great expectations before they start

Before you allow your tween access to social media it is a good idea to conduct in an interactive discussion regarding the rules of engagement. Specificity is the key to a clear understanding. For example, if your tween wants to make videos on TikTok simply stating that inappropriate songs are not permitted, is far from enough of an explanation. It is important to define exactly what you mean by “inappropriate.” In the beginning you may want to require that all social media content be approved before posting. As your child gets older you may rethink this protocol especially if he tends to post regularly and of course once you feel confident that he is using good judgement.

Safety trumps privacy

More sophisticated tweens may argue that their privacy is being invaded when parents make it clear that they are monitoring. And while an articulate tween’s rhetoric can certainly be convincing, the reality is safety and social media are rarely synonymous. Tweens need the guidance of parents to ensure appropriate interactions when engaging. It is also important that tweens are aware their activity is being avidly attended to. This encourages open dialogue between tweens and their parents about posting activities.

Create a watchdog network of support

Consistent monitoring is certainly a difficult task. Even the most vigilant parents can miss something. If your tween is particularly savvy, he may try to outwit you by setting up alternative accounts under an alias to which only his friends have access. Talk to friends and family. Ban together to watch over each other’s kids. Sometimes parents are reticent to reach out to other parents when they become aware of concerning online behaviors because they are unsure how the other parent will react. Make everyone you know aware that you are not that parent. Let them know you welcome outside feedback and intel. Form pacts with other parents promising the same oversight.

Teach your tweens well

One of the amazing aspects about tweens is that while they sometimes lack insight regarding their own inappropriate actions, they are quick to catch the missteps of others. Tweens tend to be caught between the capacity for abstract thinking and the comfort of a concrete world. Black and white thinking dictates right and wrong. This provides a great teaching opportunity for parents. Talk with them about appropriate online etiquette. Teach through example. At this age kids are usually quick studies. Social media sites are abounding with examples of positive and negative posting behaviors. Encourage them to come to you if they have questions or concerns about both their own posts and those of their peers. Quickly put the kibosh on sarcastic comments which can easily be misinterpreted as mean girl or guy behavior. Encourage consistent perspective taking when posting. Ask them “how would you feel if someone posted that comment to you?”

Staying one step ahead of your socially media savvy tween may at times feel futile. When you turn to them for knowledge and set rules and boundaries upfront, you create an atmosphere of safe and positive engagement. Consistent monitoring, and taking time to find teaching moments further ensure that you can stay in step with your digital age tween.