How to Answer Your Child’s Questions About Social Media

social media
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Discord, TikTok - the list of social media platforms is nearly endless these days. And each one can be tempting for a kid who wants to keep in touch with friends. Or maybe they just want to stay in the know. Whatever their goal, they simply want an account.

Whether or not your child has asked permission to create an online presence, it’s probably safe to assume they’re thinking about it. In fact, they may already have several accounts. In either case, it’s a good idea to talk with them about the pros and cons of social media. There’s a lot they probably don’t know.

Before you launch into the conversation, though, there are a few things for you to consider. Keep reading to make sure you’re prepared to answer their questions.

Yes, You Need to Discuss Social Media

Everyone knows what social media is, so why do you need to talk about it? Kids mainly see social media as a place to have fun. They talk with friends, post photos, and share funny videos. They don’t think about it being a dangerous environment. Kids get bullied on these platforms, though. And they can be tempted to share inappropriate information.

If your child has a smartphone, it can be hard for you to police their activity. Here’s a quick note if you want to avoid these issues altogether. A safe phone for kids can enable easy communication with your kid without the social media hassles.

Having the social media conversation is important on a number of levels, however. Answering your child's questions can keep them physically safe. It can also protect their mental health. Plus, it opens the door for them to come to you with any questions they have, now or later.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re having these talks.

1. Discuss Positive and Negative Behavior

As noted above, social media has its good points. It’s an easy way to keep in touch with friends. It can work as a visual diary to post pictures and remember fun times. Unfortunately, it’s also prime real estate for anonymous cyberbullying.

Talk with your child about their online behavior and the importance of being kind. Explain it’s never OK to say mean things. They should treat people the same way they do when face to face. And let them know they should come to you if they’re being bullied online. You can’t help them if you don’t know what’s happening.

2. Ask Questions

Don’t assume you know everything about your child’s online activities. Kids are often on the leading edge of the digital world. There’s a very big chance they know about - or are using - a platform you don’t even know exists. So take a few minutes and ask them what the popular social media sites are.

Have them walk you through how a particular platform works. What makes it a good one? What do they like about it? Then ask about any privacy features or dark modes that let users post anonymously. Understanding their social media use makes it easier for you to answer any questions they have.

3. Explain That an Online Presence Is Permanent

Changing profile pictures or removing comments from a message board may seem easy. That doesn’t mean those things actually go away, though. Kids need to understand that there’s always a digital record somewhere. Plus, anyone can snag a quick screenshot and share that embarrassing photo or mean comment with others.

Kids frequently face a lot of pressure to sext or send each other inappropriate photos. If your child shares that kind of information, it can spread quickly. They need to understand that they should never share anything they wouldn’t want their entire class to know.

Maybe they have several years ahead of them before they apply for college or a job. Still, make it clear that college admissions offices and employers routinely conduct online searches on applicants. Posting inappropriate or illegal things (like underage drinking) can negatively affect their future.

4. Keep Calm

During your conversation, you may make a few concerning discoveries. Maybe your child has already posted some questionable things. Perhaps they joined in mocking someone on a chat board. Even if that’s the case, keep cool.

Calmly discuss what they tell you. Talk about the impacts of their behavior and what the consequences could be. Above all else, let them know you appreciate that they shared the information. The way you handle these incidents will impact whether they tell you about any future mistakes.

5. Be an Example

Whether you believe it or not, your child still looks to you as an example to follow. Social media behavior is no different. Be sure you’re using all your online platforms in a healthy way because your children will see what you do. Don’t ignore your family in favor of scrolling Instagram for hours. Avoid getting into heated arguments on Facebook, to say nothing of posting the kinds of photos you warned them about.

If - and when - your child has questions about your social profiles, answer them honestly and in an age-appropriate fashion. Don’t lie or leave out details just to make yourself look better. Your child will likely sense it, and they may trust you less in other serious situations.

Social media can be entertaining. However, participating in the wrong ways can also cause problems. Your guidance is vital to helping your kid use social media in a safe way. To reach that goal, keep these tips in mind for your next social media conversation.