The world of snaps and double taps can feel downright paralyzing for parents trying to help their kids navigate it. What does all this terminology mean? What are the rules here? How can my kids have fun and stay safe at the same time?
To help navigate this new terrain, we invited Laurie Wolk, a life coach and expert on child and adolescent social media use, to talk to parents and educators at the Robertson. Check out her top three tips.
Get on board. Like it or not, social media is here to stay. “There’s no use resisting it,” says Wolk. “That energy is better spent elsewhere.”
If you’re new to the platforms your kids are interested in, start by learning the terminology — watch a tutorial, ask a niece or nephew for one, or spend some time browsing around the platform yourself. As you do, make sure your kids see that you’ve accepted social media as part of life. That way, if kids run into a problem, they’re more likely to come to you. “You don’t want kids thinking, ‘Oh, Mom and Dad don’t get it anyway,’” she said. “Take more of a teammate approach. You’re in this together.”
Create clear boundaries. Like any other parenting decision, start with your family’s values. Then use those values to set clear boundaries around phones and devices. For some families, dinner time might be sacred. If that’s the case, set a strict “no phones at the dinner table” rule — and enforce it every night (a basket for phones just beyond reach of the table helps). For other families, it might be putting the phones down when family comes to visit, for the first half hour after getting home from school or work, before bedtime, and so on. Clear boundaries will help you from having to litigate the same debate over and over.
Once you’ve decided what makes sense for your family, make sure to communicate the why behind the rules. “I’m crazy about sleep,” said Wolk,” so we’re a ‘no phones in bedrooms’ household. In communicating this to my kids, I shared my thinking, including concerns about the blue light from phones interfering with their sleep cycles and putting their health in danger. Your kids likely won’t be thrilled at first, but the more you keep explaining the why and helping them understand your thinking, the more it will start to click in their brains.”
Get creative and help them practice. “Go back to when your kids were little, and think of how you would engage them,” Wolk said. “You’d get on the floor with them and think about what would be interesting to them, what you wanted them to learn, and how you could make that happen.” She advises you continue that mindset when your kids are older, and look for opportunities that will engage each individual child based on their interests and personalities.
“My daughter loves two things: her friends and grilled cheese. So when I pitched her on a phone-free Saturday, I came up with a plan for us to walk the Brooklyn Bridge (no selfies allowed). I brought her best friend along, and took them out for grilled cheese afterward. That way, it was a fun afternoon full of the things she loves rather than Mom dragging her out and forcing her to leave her phone behind.”
Ultimately, the key to surviving social media as a parent is to remember that you have everything you need to do so. “This is your kid. You know your kid,” Wolk said. “Trust your gut, and feel empowered in knowing that you know what is best for your child and you can help them navigate this just like you’ve helped them navigate everything else in their lives,” she said. “You’ve got this.”
If you’re interested in learning more from Laurie Wolk, you can sign up for her newsletter here, download free resources here, or find her on Instagram (@Lauriejwolk), Twitter (@LaurieWCoaching), or Facebook (@LaurieWCoaching).