Should You Interact with Your Child on Social Media?
Social media is an integral part of our lives these days, and that’s doubly true for kids growing up in a post-Facebook world. Since parents and children are often on the same social platforms, it may seem natural to follow your child and interact. Is it a good idea though? The topic is more complex than it seems.
There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Answer
Like so many other issues around parenting, this is a case where every family and child is different. What works for one may not work for another. Family dynamics and the needs of individual kids should dictate the best way to approach social media use. The important thing is to understand that these apps are likely a big part of your child’s social life and that boundaries should be respected—both yours as a parent, as well as your child’s.
The other thing to consider is that if you interact with you child on social media, you’ll need to consider your own social media settings to ensure it doesn’t effect their safety.
Here are three tips to help you navigate the often-murky waters of online interactions with your kids.
1. Have a Frank Discussion About Social Media Boundaries
There’s often no better way to answer these tough questions than just being direct and asking. The reality is that for some kids, having parents involved in their lives is normal, while for others, it’s an embarrassment.
In either case, you should have a talk about appropriate use of social media, information privacy and security, and being safe online so that even if your kids don’t want much interaction, you can help them be smart about what they do on the internet. Even if you don’t interact with them on social media, you can still set and enforce rules for safe web use.
2. Determine If Interactions Would Seem Out of Place
Facebook and even Twitter aren’t the most popular social platforms for teens and kids anymore. Many now spend their time on Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms. So pay attention to which platforms your kids use and how they use them
If you already have accounts on the same platforms that you use on a regular basis, following and interacting with your child may make sense; if you don’t, though, you run the risk of misusing the platform and potentially embarrassing your kid—to the extent that it could cause them to migrate to other platforms or adjust settings so you can’t see as much of their activity.
3. Decide Where Your Motivation Lies
Another way to determine whether you should interact directly with your child on social media is to honestly examine your motives. If you’re only trying to police your child’s activities, you may be wasting your time; it’s relatively easy for kids to adjust privacy settings to control what you can see. It’s also not uncommon for kids to have multiple profiles, with only one visible to family.
If your family already has a trusting, open relationship with one another, it might feel natural and fine for you to interact with them in online spaces. If there’s less trust, though, getting a social media account just to monitor your children or teens could further hurt that relationship. Kids are smarter than many give them credit for—they’ll know if you’re trying to be sneaky.
Boundaries on social media may seem murky to parents, but for kids who’ve had access to these platforms their whole lives, they are often very clear. Navigating this social online world as parents takes finesse, openness, and a willingness to learn. Because in the end, the most important thing is that your kids are safe and happy.
Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate. You can find more of her work at https://hilarybird.contently.com/.