Social media is a volatile tool. If used appropriately, it can open you up to a world of opportunities and success. If used incorrectly, it can be an extremely dangerous weapon, against both others and yourself. Sometimes, when we read the horror stories about a twelve year-old committing suicide because she was cyberbullied or a teenager being kidnapped because they kept updating their location on social media or a teenager sexting his or her partner, it can be tempting to take away the phones, lock them in a vault six feet underground and go off-grid completely. Yes, we laugh about our extreme reactions, but that is because deep down we know that would never work. Technology is not going away; social media is here to stay, and the safest way to deal with it is to learn how to use it properly. The key here (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again) is BALANCE. Be Adaptable. Be flexible. Realize that you don’t know everything and that there is no shame in learning about those things. Very few things in life can be dealt with effectively in an extreme manner. The best way to approach life is with balance. Ever heard that saying, too much of a good thing is bad… yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
Dealing with social media in your household or even in your own personal habits should take a balanced approach. It is wonderful to have an online profile. You can do a world of good for others and for yourself, opening up opportunities for success. However, you can also do a world of damage if you do not balance your online life with your offline life. Not having offline friends and community correlates to an increase in depression and anxiety, something social media just exacerbates. Teenagers’ undeveloped brains will associate happiness with someone’s flawless Instagram post, even though those posts are designed to make them seem like life is perfect. Too much social media is indeed a negative.
But, it goes the other way too. See, I was THAT kid. The one that grew up without a cell phone. The one who didn’t have a Facebook profile until 2015. The one who had no clue what she was doing when she interacted with social media. Social media is not going away; It is here to stay. And frankly, it is just as dangerous to make social media taboo as it is to make social media the elixir of life and happiness.
Think about it, the moment you tell your kids not to do something or you make a big deal about how absolutely horrible you think something is, what is their first thought? Ooh, I gonna try that. And the harder you fight it, the more they want it. They will find a way. With all the apps being created as work-arounds, I can’t even keep up, and I am literally paid to keep up. How long do you think you can keep up, realistically? Not long…that’s for sure. So instead of fighting it tooth and nail, embrace it- not with open arms like you would someone you trust, but like a frenemy. You don’t “trust” it, you just use it and keep it close.
The best way to achieve this kind of balance is to have honest conversations and to promote an honest, open environment for communication in your home. Make the kids your allies in your fight against digital disrespect and safe social media usage. Give them input for family guidelines. Sign a family social media contract, and stick to it. Hold each other accountable, and don’t wield your power as the parent to promote a double-standard. Encourage proper social media use, and have consequences for inappropriate use. The key is not complete freedom, and the key is not complete abstinence. The key is BALANCE.