Homeschool Helps: Teens and Social Media

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NY City Skyline

One of the perks of being a homeschool family is amount of time we have to work on our communication skills with one another. Homeschooling has afforded us a lot of space in which we can have meaningful conversations, and hear one another well.

3 Approaches To Social Media

Communicating face to face is one thing, but the reality is, as our world changes and our children grow, social media becomes a huge part of that. And let’s face it, homeschool children are not as likely to be exposed to social media as early as their public school peers.  I like to compare social media to New York City. If you’ve never been, it is a place that really never sleeps. There are people constantly on the move going from one place to another. There are shiny things, scary things, fun things, and educational things. However, I would not be considered the greatest parent if I were to drop my young teen off in the middle of the city and say “Have fun”! I would also not be doing her any favors to keep her away from the amazing experience that is New York City {feel free to insert your own destination}.  Just like a New York experience, I have 3 choices of how to let my teens experience social media:

  1. Avoid it; like the plague. It’s scary, nasty, and serves no purpose. When he/she gets old enough to make their own choice, you won’t have to worry.
  2. Drop him/her off right in the middle and say “have fun!”  You don’t need to know much about it. It’s what everyone is doing and I won’t have to figure it out.
  3. Take the trip with them. Walk beside them, exploring together and teaching them how to navigate, i.e. what’s safe, what’s not, what’s worth seeing, what’s not, who do you share the experience with, etc.

Take The Trip With Them

Let’s say you chose choice 3 and shine some light on some practical ways that can help ensure you and your teen can enter the world of social media together and with confidence.

  1. TAKE IT ALL IN: Get to know the social media platforms. What is the purpose, required age, messaging feature, location feature, etc. A recent list and explanation of apps from Common Sense Media can be found here.*
  2. MAKE A PLAN:  Talk with your teen about social media use. Learn their heart and their motivations for wanting social media. Discuss the benefits, as well as the limitations of social media, i.e. some things getting lost in translation. Teens may not realize part of the message can get lost in social media communication due to tone of voice or body language not being accessible. Be willing to look at your own motivations, as well. Is fear keeping you from allowing your teen to learn the necessary skills to navigate that world? Is the idea of keeping up with your teen on social media exhausting and an investment you can’t/don’t want to make right now? Other things to include in the discussion:
    • Time limits
    • Overnight charging base; some place other than your teen’s bedroom
    • Parent accessibility to your teen’s account(s); Guess what? It’s okay to know your teen’s passwords!
    • Safety plan for reporting any strange activity; encouraging your teen to take a screenshot of any messages or posts is a great plan, especially if the app has a “disappearing” feature
    • Social media conduct; posting, bullying, etc.
  3. BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY: Take your discussion and develop a contract with your teen. You are still the parent. Develop boundaries based on what is best for your teen, but also based on what he or she shares with you. Family First and iMom have developed a great contract and it’s available for free download.

When you communicate and work WITH your children to navigate culture, rather than keeping them isolated or letting them loose, you are not only giving them space to learn for themselves, you are building a trust relationship that affirms to them you are a safe space where they can process their thoughts and feelings.  And if we don’t navigate these spaces with our kids, who will?

Amy Glover, LPC Intern Supervised by Sharon Beam LPCS

We can help

As a homeschool parent, are there some areas regarding culture where you feel stuck? Does your child need additional support in navigation? I would love to sit with you and discuss how Acorn Counseling Education Services can help. Click here to schedule an appointment. Homeschool families will receive a special rate.

*Elgersma, F. (2017, July, 15).17 Apps and Websites Kids Are Heading to After Facebook.  Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/16-apps-and-websites-kids-are-heading-to-after-facebook

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