The first form of social media started in 1997, with the usage of email and bulletin boards for communication. Then MySpace launched in 2003 and changed the landscape of communication forever. Fast forward to 2021, and social media is inescapable with roughly 4 billion active users! 

The rapid growth of social media also means there is a lot that we do not yet understand, especially when it comes to safety. Before exposing your teen to the open web, it’s important to set boundaries to ensure they are using the platform safely, and that it doesn’t compromise their mental, physical or academic wellbeing. 

What boundaries do you need to establish and when:

With all the information that can be obtained through smartphones, it is important to establish boundaries for social media usage BEFORE giving your teen one. That way if they break the rules, you can hold them accountable for the consequences. So what type of boundaries should you set? Here are our suggestions:

Time-off: According to the American Academy of Teen & Adolescent Psychiatry, teens spend nearly 9 hours a day on social media! That is a lot of time away from socializing with family, after school activities or homework. Try establishing social media time-off hours such as: no social media during dinner, no social media until homework is done or no social media until all chores are completed. 

Control Privacy Settings: You can work with your teen to create their account and show them what each privacy feature means. Then work with them to set privacy features that you’re both comfortable with. Use this time to have a conversation about their digital footprint. Help them understand their social media posts will likely stay on the web forever, and what they post now can affect them even decades later. 

Screen their Content: If your teen is really young or a pre-teen then the best way to protect them is to screen their content. Tell your teen to come to you when they have news to share and help them learn how to use social media safely. This will also teach your teen social media best practices before they are able to post on their own without supervision. 

Be Friends: A boundary you might consider setting is that they must befriend you on their social media. That way you monitor who they are interacting with and what they’re sharing. Be careful not to make them feel like you’re invading their privacy or “stalking” them. Just be a friend, like all their other social media friends!

Social media can be a great place for teens to learn social skills, stretch their creativity and develop a sense of self.  Establishing boundaries early will help them navigate social media in a healthy and safe way. The type of boundaries you set will depend on your parenting style, and there are no right or wrong answers. We hope the suggestions above will help you get the conversation started when your teen inevitably asks to create a social media account.