By Michael Luchies and the After School App Team
When it comes to technology and social media, our children are way ahead of us. My 2-year-old can already change my phone settings while I can’t figure out how to update my ringtone.
As parents, we work extremely hard to protect our children from danger, heartache, and uncertainty. We can’t control everything, but we want to know what they’re getting into and how best to support and help them. To help when addressing your teenager’s social media use, we worked with advisors and fellow parents to create a brief guide of five tips for monitoring and supporting your children’s social media activities.
#1. Ask and Discuss
The best approach to discussing social media with your child is to open up a line of communication with them without judgment or consequences. Ask them about how they use social media, what they like, what they dislike, and what they use it for. If they’re willing to share, It’s important to keep an open mind and not overreact or to let anxiety take over when they respond. If you want them to feel comfortable sharing with you, there has to be mutual respect and some room to experiment and grow.
As social media expert Emily Bazelon explains, your reactions can have a detrimental impact on your children and how they feel about talking with you about sensitive subjects. “The more I think about this, the more I want to focus on how devastating and destructive parental anxieties and stress about technology are. These anxieties continue to create a wall between kids and parents.” Keep an open mind and stress that you are available to discuss any issue they may be dealing with.
#2. Consider the Benefits
Communicating on social media is how this generation makes friends, deals with problems, finds jobs, and learns about what’s going on in the world. There are limits to what should be experienced behind a screen and what should be done without the aid of technology, but there’s no better way to stay informed and communicate with others in an instant than through social media.
When teaching them, we need to focus on proper use and what’s appropriate and inappropriate. Teach them how to use social media effectively and educate yourself on how best to assist them. Encourage safe behaviors and habits, so they will be able to enjoy learning and sharing on social media, and make the communities they participate in a positive and enjoyable place for others.
While visiting a neighborhood garage sale last month, I had the privilege of listening to a high school student explain to her mother what Twitter is and how it works. They even talked about “following” each other. The mother was open to learning, and her daughter was happy to teach her all about it. Using this approach, consider learning about what they use. After learning about the sites and apps that they use, do your own research. Check the app or network’s about page, reviews, FAQ’s, and consider contacting them if you have unanswered questions.
After School has a dedicated page that speaks to parents who are seeking more information about the app. It provides links to the code of conduct and lets parents know what they are doing to combat misuse on the app, including cyberbullying. There are a lot of great resources to learn about what your child is using and how to be supportive while remaining alert. NCPC.org and StaySafeOnline.org are just a couple of places to start.
In elementary school, I was bullied by a bigger child who lived close to me elementary school. Every day I ran to and from school to avoid him chasing after me. I didn’t feel comfortable telling my parents, so instead, I faced daily bullying and each day was tougher than the last.
No child wants to talk about these experiences nor do they want to identify with a child who is bullied. It’s as embarrassing as it is scary. From having the bully aware that you’re a “tattle tale” to having the bullying worsen to the point of physical violence, the consequences of a situation not being handled the right way can be severe. If your child is being bullied, your first step should be to get as much information as possible while showing love and support. You’ll feel anger and want it to stop immediately, but this is an experience your child will learn from and also shape how other students view and treat them in the future.
“Antibullying efforts cannot be successful if they make teenagers feel victimized without providing them the support to go from a position of victimization to one of empowerment.” For more information on stopping and preventing cyberbullying, visit End to Cyberbullying (ETCB), an organization After School aligned with to help prevent bullying on their app. They offer guidance for parents on cyberbullying, specifically concerning social networks.
#5. Enable Restrictions and Parental Controls
To see mature content, users on After School must verify that they are 17 or older by scanning their driver’s license, although the information is not stored by the app, and the scan can be completed using airplane mode.
If you want to limit their use on social media platforms, you have several options:
- Parental Settings on Apple Devices: Parental settings can be implemented on your child’s Apple device by going to Settings -> General -> Restrictions.
- Apple Store Restrictions: Restrict specific apps or specific categories on their iOS device.
- After School App Parental Controls: If you want to monitor or limit their use of After School, there are parental controls that allow you to password-protect access onto the app, requiring a password to unlock it.
As creators and managers of a social network for teens, After School is fighting cyberbullying and providing a safe place for children to share with others. However you decide to approach social media use with your children, stay open and be supportive. Be a positive social media role model and make sure they know that what they post will impact others. They can make an active decision to positively influence others, which is what we created After School to help facilitate.
-Michael Luchies and the After School Team