86% of children aged 11-12 in the UK have a social media account, despite this being below the age restrictions on social platforms. Being the parent who says no to your child having access to a social media account or app when all their friends are on it, can feel an isolating place and one fraught with arguments.
However, it’s important that if you do decide to say no, you are prepared to have that conversation with your child sensitively and calmly.
Here are some tips to help you navigate this conversation:
Choose the Right Time and Setting:
Find a calm and private environment where both you and your child can have an open conversation without distractions.
Start by asking your child how they feel about social media and why they want to use it. This will help you understand their perspective and concerns.
Validate their feelings and acknowledge that social media is a significant part of their generation’s communication. Show that you understand their desire to be connected.
Explain Your Concerns:
Share your concerns about the potential negative impacts of social media, such as cyberbullying, addiction, privacy issues, and the impact on mental health. Use age-appropriate language and examples.
Discuss alternative activities they can engage in, such as spending time with family and friends in person. Encourage your child to maintain strong relationships offline, spend quality time with family and friends, and nurture those connections in person. Other activities include pursuing hobbies, reading, sports, and other constructive activities.
Discuss the Importance of Balance:
Explain the importance of balance in life, emphasising that while social media has its benefits, excessive use can have detrimental effects on well-being.
Educate About Online Safety:
If you’re concerned about your child’s online safety, educate them about the potential risks, the importance of not sharing personal information, and how to handle online interactions responsibly.
Focus on Self-Esteem:
Discuss the concept of self-worth and how it shouldn’t be tied to the number of followers or likes on social media. Encourage your child to build self-esteem through real-world achievements and personal growth.
If there are specific reasons you’re concerned about social media for your child, share those reasons openly. Whether it’s about their age, maturity level, or your desire to protect their well-being, honesty can foster trust. Remember that every child is unique, and your approach should be tailored to their personality and maturity level. This conversation is an opportunity for you to understand each other’s perspectives and work together to find a balance that promotes healthy development.
By leading by example and showing your child how you manage your own technology use and communicate offline, prioritising face-to-face interactions and time spent together as a family will also support your decision.
If you do decide to allow limited social media access, a conversation with your child to establish clear guidelines regarding screen time, appropriate content, and who they can connect with is essential. Regular conversations and monitoring their online activity will ensure they are adhering to these guidelines and keep the flow of communication consistent as they grow older.