Teens, Tweens, and Screens: Having the Social Media “Talk”

When parents become involved with kids’ media lives, kids consume less and understand more of what they consume.

Having “The Talk”

Parents can help teens and tweens navigate social media with an “Social Media Talk” that helps their kids understand how to create and maintain a healthy context for their digital lives.

What to Ask

  • What are your favorite things to do online?
  • What is personal information? Why should you keep it private?
  • What could you do to be safer online?
  • What would you do if anyone online asked to meet IRL (in real life)?
  • Besides me, who do you feel you can talk to if you are in a scary or uncomfortable situation?
  • What would you do if someone asked you, “Where do you live? What are you wearing? Do you want to have a private conversation?”
  • What’s okay to post? And what’s not okay to expose?

Kids’ use of social media can be constructive and healthy—they can make friends online based on shared interests or play games that make them feel connected to others. But there are downsides to unmonitored social media.

  • Lack of Socialization. Kids who predominantly interact on the Internet—who spend their free time gaming or in chat rooms—can’t practice real-life social skills or learn how to manage their emotions.
  • Isolation. Tweens and teens don’t recognize that having 200 Facebook “friends” doesn’t translate into sustainable, deep, or in many instances, real, friendships.
  • Danger. Inappropriate postings, and inexperience with predatory behavior can lead to unwelcome advances.
  • Addiction. While parents may think, “He’s home; he’s safe,” he may be nurturing a growing screen addiction. This can affect wellness on many levels: reduced sleep, weight gain, diminished social skills, and even increased levels of aggression and lower grades.
  • Cyber Bullying. When kids have unrestricted access to technology, they can become either victims or perpetrators of cyber bullying—including mean text messages or emails, and rumors sent by email. Messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience.

No Blame, No Shame

The key to successfully navigating teens, tweens, and screens is maintaining an ongoing dialogue. Want to know what your kids are doing online? Have a seat next to them. And remember that if your tween or teen has chosen to share with you in a first conversation, buckle up, because you can’t show fear, blame or shame. Prepare to be your best self and to listen keenly, or there might not be a second conversation.

Still have questions?

Our experts are available for conversations. It’s all part of The Jewish Board’s continuum of care to help ensure that New Yorkers don’t have to navigate life’s difficulties alone. For more information, email us at hello@jbfcs.org.