5 Questions to Ask Your Teen About their Social Media Use, and How to Listen

After School
Sep 18, 2018 · 3 min read

By After School Communications Manager Michael Luchies, first published on the After School App Blog.

With two children under the age of five, I’m already well aware and cautious of how my kids interact with and use technology. I want them to benefit from available tools while learning how to use them responsibly — becoming good “digital citizens” — just as I want them to act responsibly offline.

Social media use is increasing and groups and individuals are looking to exploit that to hurt others. It is more important than ever that we work with our kids so they can be better prepared to protect themselves. So how do we keep them safe online?

To start, we need to try to understand what they’re using, how they are using it, and most importantly, why. The majority of parents of teenagers don’t believe they know as much about technology as their child. To learn from them, we need to have conversations with them. Unfortunately, according to a Canadian study, parents spend an average of just 3.5 minutes a week having meaningful conversations with their children. We need to change that by having regular meaningful conversations with our kids.

While having these conversations with your children about social media, here are five questions worth asking:

  • Why do you use social media?

We often do things without thinking about why we’re doing them. Help your children consider the reasons behind their use and their goals surrounding social media. Do they want to stay close with their friends, hear gossip, get a date, or are they just using it because all of their friends are? Whatever their purpose or even if they aren’t sure why they use it, asking this question will help them contemplate why and give you insight into the reasons they use technology.

  • What’s your favorite thing about social media?

Do you know what your child likes about social media? There are bound to be a few things that they like best. Learn by asking them “what’s the best thing about social media,” and carefully listen to what they say.

  • What’s the worst thing about social media?

Similar to in-person communication, there are bound to be ups and downs with online communication. Ask your child what they believe is the worst thing about social media. This will help you understand what they have experienced, from bullying to seeing graphic images, in a respectful way. However they respond, make sure you listen and don’t act rashly to what they may have gone through.

Follow up question: What do you think can be done to change that?

  • What apps do you use? Why do you use them?

This is a question that will only receive an honest answer if you are carefully listening and understanding of the importance of technology in your teen’s life. If there is even a chance you will take away their access to their phone or force them to delete apps, they will naturally want to protect their phone use, and not answer you truthfully. Assure them that you want to understand and support them, not punish them, when asking this question and learning what they use and why they use each.

  • Will you show me how it works?

Another question that requires that your teen completely trusts your intentions, asking them how an app works will help further the line of communication you’re building and strengthen your understanding of their social media habits.

The Importance of Listening

Asking questions is a great way to learn, but you have to be open and willing to listen. It sounds simple enough, but as parents, we’ve learned to talk and instruct more than we listen. When it comes to conversations about social media, listening is the most important part. If we don’t listen, then we don’t learn. If we don’t learn about their needs, use of social media, likes, dislikes, etc., then how can we help them?

Have you had success talking to your teen about social media? We’d love to hear about it. Connect with us on Twitter @SafetyonSocial. If you have questions about After School, reach out to us at press@afterschoolapp.com.

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