Social Media Boundaries for Parents

Smartphone and the world

Image courtesy of mapichai at

Andrew Watts’ recent article; “A Teenager’s View on Social Media” was on point, and although he is clear that these are only his opinions, much of what he says rings true to me as I watch my daughters navigate through social media.

He points out that social media has become segregated, even though he doesn’t express it with that term.

Various social media outlets have gotten old enough to be classified as “young and hip,” “just for business,” mostly for “women or artsy/hipsters,” or simply have become outdated to teens and young adults. He refers to Facebook as, “an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave.”

Most parents are at a disadvantage in social media. Many of us don’t know very much about it, or maybe we had varied reactions to it when we dipped a toe into the social media stream. Some parents dislike the lack of privacy they sense and others can over share and cause their kids to flee them to another service.

It is a difficult balancing act.

I am fairly active in social media (Blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and Snapchat) but I am not a professional, and I won’t kid you…I hadn’t even heard of several social media apps he referred to in the article. Reading it made me wish he would write an article on the boundaries that kids would like to have with their parents when it comes to social media.

Since I am on the other side of that fence, here are some boundaries from the parental perspective that I think make sense. Adapt them to the age of your kids, (younger = more supervision), and talk about them. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Basic Boundaries for Parents:

1. Don’t ask to “friend” them on Facebook or any other social media unless you have talked about it first. Ask their permission before you post a picture of them or post something about them, even if it is something positive. They may have a reason that they would not like to have things on Facebook or other social media. Think about it this way…would you want unflattering (in your mind, at least) photos or private surgeries posted in public? You can unwittingly put your kids in that kind of position if you aren’t careful.

2. Discuss safety and privacy settings on all social media and make sure they understand that even if they block their parents from seeing certain pictures and posts, those images and words are still out there on the Internet, and are in no way truly private. Encourage kids to put those negative feelings or rants into a journal or something that they can destroy later if they want to.

3. Don’t use social media to stalk them, their friends, or their relationships. It is very tempting but can backfire quickly.  Discuss the privacy settings you both are going to use, and respect their privacy. If you are talking about it, you really don’t have to see it, so try to consider social media a jumping off point for face-to-face conversations.

4. Ask them to help you figure out a social media that they would like to share with you. If you have a smartphone, Snapchat and Instagram are good to start with and are simple once someone shows you how.

5. When the time comes and they need a professional persona on LinkedIn (or whatever service is the business social media then!), offer to help. Your business experience and skills can keep them from making the rookie mistakes that can shut doors before they even get a chance to knock on them.

6. Take care not to let social media, texts, and messaging replace personal conversation, whether on the phone, Skype, or in person. (This gets to be very important when they are at college)

7. You have discussed “stranger danger” and boundaries all through their young lives, and have used communication and negotiation to develop them into questioning young adults…remind them that those skills are just as important in the world of social media.

8. Talk about ways they can protect themselves, particularly as they reach the age of dating. It is the Wild West in the social media/dating world, and talking through strategies will help now, just as it did with peer pressure, drugs and alcohol in high school. Let them tell YOU what their strategies are. It is probably beyond your skill set to teach them much about social media, but listen when they talk about it and learn about this part of their world.

We don’t have to check out of this part of their lives as they become adults, as long as we communicate, keep healthy boundaries in place, and stay open to the possibilities. Who knows how our grandchildren are going to want to communicate with us besides face-to-face, and we don’t want to miss that, do we?

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