What To Do With Social Media?
Does the era of your first interaction with the internet and social media feel like a time warp? Sometimes I could give myself whiplash just thinking about it. Do you remember the screeching sound of the internet trying to make a connection, followed by the words “you’ve got mail?” If you can, then you may relate with me now when I cringe hearing people saying that Facebook is for old people and you’re only cool if you are on TikTok.
First of all, no-one has to be on anything.
Let me say that again for the people in the back: no-one has to be on anything.
But if you’re looking to help grow and mature your student in regard to the use of the internet and social media, start here.
Let’s first take a look a little deeper into the problem.
I think the challenge before us is complex, but not insurmountable.
To help us unpack this thought, here is a funny metaphor of the differences in the way my wife and I grew up to help us out. One of us grew up in a “GNC household” packed with vitamins, spinach and lima beans. The other person lived in a “Hostess Cupcake plant” overflowing with sweets and fluffy treats.
Can you guess which one was who?
Here is the problem. When my wife graduated from high school and went to college, she’ll tell you that she went on to eat almost everything in sight. When I grew up and graduated from high school, my mentality was that a little cookie here or a bag of chips there can’t hurt me.
The key is learning everything in moderation, right?
From what I can tell working with thousands of students across the country over the years, we are living out 3 extremes with our kids.
- Approach #1: Tell our kids they will never be permitted to touch social media until they are XX age.
- Approach #2: Freely hand them one or more devices.
- Approach #3: Debate with them about social media, and eventually throw up your hands and let them do whatever they want to do because they are going to find out one way or the other.
The struggle is very real.
If I could be real honest with you today, our kids will model your approach and what they see you do.
However we model our lives at home, I do believe that if you’re reading this that you only want the best future for your kids.
So, let’s start there, with the future.
- Have a vision. What kind of vision do you have for your son or daughter to grow into? I know, I know, you thought that my first tip was going to ask you to install the Bark.us app on your phone. While that is a good app, here is an even better fact. Did you know that the founder, Steve Jobs, the visionary behind Apple computers, the iPhone, and iPad, prohibited his kids from using the iPad. Bill Gates raised his kids tech free as well.
What kind of vision did Steve have for his kids? It obviously was one that did not include the use of an ipad. Before the argument comes that my children’s school is equipping them with technology, I ask, what kind of vision do you have for your kids?
I firmly believe that the vision you have for your kids will eventually lead to healthy conversations with them about the person they have the potential to become. When you both begin to get a picture of the person you desire to become, that will lead your student into the healthy types of activities they should be engaged in.
- Take a temperature check. Most of us are getting all too familiar with temperature checks. At doctor’s visits, trips to the gym and select restaurants. While it might be difficult for someone to detect if you have a sore throat, or loss of taste or smell, the numbers on a thermometer can tell a different story.
I found one interesting study suggests that a child who spends more than three hours a day on social media are twice as likely to suffer from poor mental health.
So, how do you take a temperature check with your kids? This question is one that I’ve found to be helpful in more than one situation. Is my child’s attitude, countenance, words and actions worse or better after spending time on social media, movies, with friends, etc? Remember, the answer here is NEVER neutral. My child can only be happier or sad. Afraid or confident. Life giving, or hurtful. Out of a 5 scale, if your students score a 1, 2, 3 or maybe 4, it might be time to reevaluate what they are doing and how much time they are spending doing it.
- Answer their questions. How do you know if your child is ready to learn about something? As soon as they ask the question, and maybe even sooner.
What if someone would have begun to explain to me as a child that while eating sugar in moderation might not have have any immediate harmful effects, but that over time, it could lead to an addiction and weight gain, or blood sugar problems, an increase in risk of heart disease and even possible connection to some forms of cancer. Remember, all that kids really want right now out of life is to understand. Take the time to get on their level, look them in the eyes and tell them the truth.
I think one of the best pieces of advice anyone has given me about parenting is to fall in love with any question that begins with the word why from my kids. While you can be honest and tell them you might not have the answer right now, they will never forget your willingness to be real and honest with them.
- Use it for good and to do what matters. I want to be very honest. My wife and I have not decided on what ages we will begin to allow our kids to use social media.
However, our oldest knows how to read and our two youngest kids can see images and pictures. With that, we intentionally show them stories, reels, and pictures or read to them the comments about pictures that we have posted on our social media accounts.
What does this do? It allows them to see our social world in action and the kind of conduct we use with other people.
Warning small rant > If there is a social media post on your thread where you or someone else has used negativity, I guarantee that your child is doing the exact same thing with their account. Remember, your kids are modeling what they see you do. Trust me, they know.
You should be able to use the questions below as a guide to help your child see that there is not only a dark side with social media, but used in the correct way, can bring light to the world.
- Did this comment or picture make someone else feel better?
- How did this post, picture, snap, or TikTok bring real positivity or negativity to the world?
- How would my grandparents or younger siblings feel if I read out loud my posts or showed them the stories / reels content on my feed?
This is a hard subject. I’m not aware of anyone who is doing this perfect.
But, let’s keep working to find balance and lead with truth.