Have you ever wished you could give your child a guide on how to use social media safely? While sites like Facebook and Twitter play a large and primarily positive role in many young people’s lives, it also gives them access to a new, different world to the one their parents inhabited at their age.
There are, of course, pitfalls to that new world. For example, a teenager struggling with an eating disorder may find it difficult to tell pro-recovery social media accounts from pro-ana ones (which promote anorexia as a lifestyle choice). For their parents, it must feel like they can’t stop the enemy from coming straight through their front door and into their child’s bedroom. Likewise, it can be unsettling for a parent to learn that not all of the followers their child has on social media are personal friends.
So what can parents do?
It can be hard to keep up when the social media world moves so quickly, but knowledge is the best weapon. For example, some young people will have duplicate ‘parent-friendly’ social media accounts.
However hard it is, try to keep an eye on what your teenagers are up to, especially if their behaviour changes drastically. Even if you don’t understand what they’re doing, ask them questions about it – talk about the benefits, not just about the dangers. If they think they have to defend something to you, they’ll be less likely to share with you when something feels wrong.
Communication, as always, is the key. Keep those channels open, and your teenagers should be able to enjoy their online life and allow it to open doors that we never even knew existed.
Kate Medlin works in private practice and for the counselling service at a London university