What you’ve been afraid of has happened—you find out your child has created a social media account without you knowing. So now what? Should kids have social media?
At Troomi, we talk a lot about questions like at what age should you have social media and how young is too young for social media. In fact, we’ve talked about social media a lot before. Everything ranging from what to consider before your child gets an Instagram account to the dangers of social media to a breakdown of social media algorithms.
Troomi phones don’t offer social media apps, and there’s a reason for that: we don’t believe social media is needed by or helpful to kids. We’d even say it can be more harmful than helpful. However, it’s possible that, despite our best efforts, our children will create social media accounts without us knowing. What now?
Start by Listening
Although many of us might first react by getting upset (understandably), we can do our best to approach our children with a listening ear. After all, we at Troomi believe that tech safety depends on open communication and trust between parent and child. You want your child to understand the seriousness of dangers lurking online, but you also want them to feel that they can always talk to you.
So start with a simple conversation. Ask your child why they made a social media account and what they’re looking for on social media. Talk about whether there are other ways to find what they’re seeking on social media. If it’s connection with friends, maybe they can schedule regular video calls, texting sessions, or hangouts to catch up with friends and stay updated on their lives. Instead of leading with your reactive emotions, do your best to really listen.
See the Opportunity
Would you believe us if we said there’s a bright side to all this? There can be! If you just found out your child has created a social media account without you knowing, at least you know. That’s better than not knowing, and you now have a great opportunity to start a conversation and teach them about social media. If after listening to your child’s point of view, you decide together that they’ll keep their accounts, you can set clear expectations and guidelines around their use of social media.
Think about what boundaries you can set together. You can teach your child about the risks associated with social media and work with them to address those risks. For example:
- Because social media can pose privacy concerns, agree that accounts will be private and kids won’t share personal or location data online.
- Because predators can use social media to connect with victims, maybe your family has guidelines for where and when kids can be on social media (like only on the family computer or when you’re around), and kids know not to talk to anyone they don’t know in real life.
- Because cyberbullying often occurs on social media, you could agree on a rule that your child will only post positive things and will come to you if they ever see or experience bullying online.
- Because social media can contribute to comparison culture, you could teach your child skills to notice and combat feelings of comparison.
- Because social media can be addictive, consider setting time limits on its use together.
Of course, if you’re going to help your child stay safe on social media, you’ll need to stay aware of new updates to platforms and what possible risks they introduce. As parents, we can do our best to stay informed about social media and what our kids may be exposed to as they use it.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Hopefully, this experience (although not what any of us would prefer) can end up strengthening our relationships with our kids. With social media, if you can’t avoid it, it’s important to come to a common understanding and let your child know they can talk to you about anything. You’ll be most able to help and protect them if they feel comfortable coming to you with concerns, and they know you’re invested in keeping them safe.
Consider having regular check ins with your child and asking things like
- Have you experienced anything concerning on social media?
- Is social media meeting your needs, or are there other ways you can connect with your friends?
- What have you learned about social media and internet safety?
With Troomi, you don’t need to worry about them accessing social media on their phones. The apps aren’t available, and you can create a safelist of websites that their phone can access. As with everything we want to protect our kids from, we’ll be able to do the best job possible as we work closely with them, and that’s what Troomi is all about: empowering kids and building relationships.