If you're anything like the 75% of American adults with a social media account, online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc. probably play a role in your day-to-day life. Chances are, your children are no different.
For co-parents, social media can be a double-edged sword—one you should handle carefully. Today, we're giving out our best tips for how you and your co-parent should handle social media with your kids (and each other).
Social Media: A Necessary Evil?
For many children, social media is a part of everyday life. Around 90% of kids aged 13-17 have used social media, and approximately 75% have a dedicated account on various platforms (Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat are some of the most popular platforms with younger users). About 45% of kids say they are online "almost constantly."
Many parents view social media as doing more harm than good, and there's some evidence to back that up. For example, the first study positively correlating social media use with depression was recently published. Social media does encourage users to isolate themselves from real-life interactions. It can also encourage impressionable demographics, like teenagers, to compare themselves with unrealistic standards for beauty or success like celebrities, which can result in lower self-worth and esteem.
Furthermore, it's important for parents to understand that social media was designed to be addictive. However, instead of gambling with money, social media users are gambling with their self-worth, vying for likes on various platforms. Needless to say, that can be a destructive cycle.
Despite all this, it's also important for parents to understand why so many children find social media engaging:
- It helps them keep up-to-date with friends. Social media is a great way for kids to keep in touch with one another, especially if they live in different cities or countries.
- It keeps them "in the loop." Social media allows users to instantly access the latest news, which is a double-edged sword. It can be great for kids who want to keep up with current events, but it can also be overwhelming.
- It exposes them to different experiences and cultures. Children can use social media to learn about and interact with various cultural groups and experiences, helping them learn more about other cultures and places around the world.
Social media has positive and negative attributes. How you and your co-parent handle social media will set the tone for the impact it has on your child's life.
Social Media and Co-Parenting 101: Set the Same Boundaries
You and your co-parent need to agree on the same boundaries for social media use from your child. If one parent has no boundaries concerning social media use and the other is strict, you're begging to set up an unhealthy "bad cop, good cop" parenting dynamic.
You should agree on various boundaries for social media use, including:
- Whether to use parental controls. If you have young children, this is probably wise. However, if you have older children, consider relinquishing the parental controls—it will help them feel independent and develop a more trusting relationship with you (even if it feels like a risk).
- What platforms they can use. Certain platforms, like Reddit, may not be appropriate for younger children (for example). Research popular social media platforms and decide which your child should have access to.
- How long your child can spend on social media. You should both have the same boundaries concerning social media use for your kid.
- Whether to track what they're doing. Again, for younger children, this may help you protect them from inappropriate content. However, tracking what your older child does on social media will probably do more harm to your relationship than good. Letting your kids make mistakes and helping them fix them is essential—they're bound to mess up eventually, so turning a mistake into a learning experience is your best-case scenario.
You should also consider asking your child what boundaries they feel would be appropriate. Your children may be more tech-savvy than you and may have useful input on proper limits for social media use.
Once you and your co-parent agree on boundaries, incorporate them into your parenting plan to lend them more weight.
At Fenchel Family Law, we can help you draft a solid parenting plan for your child custody arrangement.
To learn more or schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (415) 650-1112.