How to Start the Conversation on Safe Use of Social Media

Blog · Apr 22, 2020

In the last decade, social media use among 13-17 year olds doubled, from 34% in 2012 to over 70% in 2019. Additionally, those teens use social media on a daily basis, with more than 80% of 15-17 year olds logging into their accounts at least once per day. As social media becomes ever-more ingrained in our society, parents need a strategy to initiate and sustain conversations about safe usage of social media with their children. 


Children Interact With Their Peers Differently

The way children interact with their peers differs dramatically from the types of social interactions most parents experienced during their childhood. Teenagers still play sports, attend school events, participate in extracurricular activities, and spend time with friends. But while those familiar stalwarts of teen life remain the same, there is no denying the importance and influence social media exerts on today’s youth.


The Dark Side of Social Media

Social media is now a fact of modern life, and teenagers growing up with all these new ways to communicate are particularly vulnerable to being influenced by what they see, hear, and share with their friends. While there are plenty of ways in which children can positively use social media – like connecting with volunteer organizations or finding a community that shares their interests and passions – there is also a dark side. Unfortunately, social media enables many negative behaviors, like bullying and harassment, and can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. 

Social media use can lead to depression and anxiety and can play a significant role in a teen’s decision to use drugs or alcohol. Perhaps even more concerning, because teens are exposed to troubling content while their brains are still developing, the impact of social media is powerful, and its detrimental effects cannot be ignored. 


Talking to Your Children About Social Media

When discussing safe social media use with your children, use transparent communication and model healthy behavior. Explain how the images and content they see online don’t necessarily reflect reality. Show them how images can be altered and explain how social media influencers and celebrities use their platforms to earn money and promote their “brand.” 

When teens have feelings of low self-esteem and inadequacy it’s often a result of comparing themselves to others. Pointing out how social media is a place where people promote their victories but downplay their defeats can help children understand that they are viewing a distilled, distorted version of reality. 

Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open. Check in regularly, ask what platforms they are using, and don’t shy away from difficult questions about bullying, isolation, and self-worth. And don’t forget to lead by example. Your children will model their behavior based on what they see around them, so stay aware of how you use (and perhaps abuse) social media in your own day-to-day life. 

Social media plays a big role in the lives of children and teenagers but that should not lull parents into passive acceptance. While social media does have detrimental attributes, it can also help children learn new things, connect positively with peers, and even allow them to expand their perspectives. The solution to the social media quandary is not to ignore or eliminate social media, but to guide children towards a more informed use of this modern communication tool. 

Developing skills to be critical thinkers is a core part of our curriculum. To learn more, visit

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