In the world today, your teen’s desire to use social media is inevitable. The online world is merely an extension of their real life. But what are they really seeing and doing online, and how are they presenting themselves to others? Here are some tips on how you can help encourage your teen to make smart choices online and present themselves in a respectful manner.
Update Your Knowledge and Download that App
When a teen believes their parents know and understand what they’re talking about, they’re more likely to seek out help in times of need. If your teen is using a website or an app you’ve never heard of before, download it and become familiar with it.
Be the Change You Want to See
Whether they’ll admit it or not, you are your teen’s biggest influence. Demonstrate to them the behavior you want to see them model. Put the phone away during your free time and at dinner, and encourage them to enjoy more time offline.
Don’t Ditch the Daily News
With the constant influx of stories about someone doing something questionable, it might seem like the best thing to do is to write-off the news completely. However, with such easy and immediate access to news via Facebook and Twitter, avoiding the news is easier said than done. Instead, use these current events to create teachable moments by asking your teens what they think about certain situations or bad celebrity behavior. Just remember to ask open-ended questions in a welcoming tone and really listen to your teen’s thoughts.
Follow the Who/What/Why Method
Teach your teens to spot-check all of their posts by asking themselves the three “Ws.” Who is their audience, and does it include their entire friends list (including family)? What are they trying to say with this post, and does it align with their core values? Why are they posting – is it an emotional response or for another reason? You can also encourage them to always think about how they would feel if their post was made public for all to see.
Create a Community
Parenting in the digital age is difficult, and it’s important that your teen know they have multiple resources to turn to, should something go wrong online. Help your teen identify these resources – mentors, counselors, relatives, priests – so that they know they are supported whenever they need it, just in case they become overwhelmed by something that happened or was said online.
Embrace your teen’s unavoidable social media presence and empower them to be mindful of their online footprint. Be informed, get involved, and communicate values and model behavior. Most of all, remind your teen that they have a supportive faith community and resources surrounding them online, and off.
At our Polk County Catholic schools, we foster an atmosphere of care and an environment of high expectations and effective discipline. To learn more about our Catholic schools in Polk County, contact us at 407-246-4800.