Dear Your Teen,
My daughter is feeling very left out because we have a no social media policy. She is 12 and a lot of the kids are playing a game that I knew nothing about. We found out she snuck and downloaded the game using her father’s phone. When I looked through her phone and found it, I was so taken aback!
This is the first time she has EVER done something like this. She’s a very good student and friend and has always followed our rules and regulations, for the most part. She has always understood why rules are important, and she is quick to point out when someone isn’t doing the right thing. She was very upset with herself and gave me a story about how she doesn’t feel like she fits in because everyone has this game and that’s all they talk about.
I tell her all the time that it’s my job to keep her safe for the brief time she is a kid and that she doesn’t need to know about mature stuff before she is grown. How do I help her fit in without permitting her to play games I find inappropriate for her age?
EXPERT | Tori Cordiano, Ph.D.
You may feel that twelve is too young for your daughter to wade into the waters of social media. Despite what your daughter may proclaim, you are not alone in this view, and she is not the only 12-year-old without access to this world. But twelve is not too young to begin conversations about digital safety and citizenship. Likely, she uses technology in some form, for example, through a school-issued Chromebook or a shared family tablet.
Technology Talking Points
At this age, it is important to begin conversations about the ways that technology can be tricky. Because kids and teens will shut down at the mere whiff of a lecture, you’ll want to keep it short and sweet. Here are some high points to hit:
Technology is a great thing
Despite what your daughter may think, your aim should not be to scare her away from technology by only focusing on its flaws. At an appropriate age and in a moderate fashion, social media has the power to connect individuals, provide support, and spearhead social change. Recognizing that social media has value lets your daughter know that you won’t just shut down her opinions on this topic.
Social media age restrictions exist for a reason
If some of her friends have social media accounts, your daughter may not be aware that social media platforms generally have a minimum age requirement. You can explain that these limits exist to keep children safe from potential online dangers and prevent them from accessing content that could be scary or overwhelming at a younger age.
Technology use can be hard to manage
Sharing your reasoning for why you won’t yet allow your daughter to access social media might not lessen her dislike of your decision, but it at least lets her know that you’ve put some thought into your “no.” Likely, one of your reasons is that social media use is really difficult for even adults to regulate. For teens and younger kids, it can be particularly challenging to adhere to healthy limits and to know how and when to use social media appropriately.
While reinforcing that every family has different rules, and that this rule is an important one to you, you can empathize with your daughter’s complaint that she feels left out without access to social media.
You might also think with her about ways to stay connected to peers apart from these games and platforms. This might include more of an effort to meet up with friends on the weekends or to come together around other areas of interest. As she matures and becomes more ready to use social media, there are many ways to make the process safer and healthier. For example, you can let her know that, at least in the beginning, you need her password and will check in regularly on her phone and social media use.
Common Sense Media (link to: https://www.commonsensemedia.org) is a wonderful resource for parents on media and tech in all forms. Social media is almost unavoidable for teens today, but starting these conversations at a younger age creates an ongoing way for you to help your daughter enter this new world safely.