Parent Resources » Navigating the Online World with your Middle Schooler

Navigating the Online World with your Middle Schooler

We live in the future! Technology changes so quickly, and it can be hard to keep up and know what appropriate expectations and boundaries to establish with your child around phone, computer and social media use. Following are a set of guidelines developed by AMS administrators and counselors to support parents and guardians in developing these expectations and boundaries.

1. Students need help establishing parameters around phone use. Establish hours/times that are off-limits for phones. The times should include homework, meals, and one hour before bedtime.

2. Consider social media as an extension of your child’s social life. Stay in touch and supervise their use of social media. They need supervision and explicit guidance as they are learning to appropriately and safely navigate this world.

3. Have a designated “docking” area for phones to be during off-limit times. This place should be where your child won’t hear/see incoming messages while doing homework or eating. The phone should never be in the child’s bedroom at night. Buy an alarm clock so they don’t need a phone with them in the bedroom. Keep the computer in a public area.

4. Help your child to learn etiquette around texting. They need to understand what are the times for text communication, and what is better left for a phone conversation or a face-to-face discussion. Help them to understand that screenshotting what someone else wrote and sending it to others or posting it on social media creates a breach of trust and is not okay. Also, remind them that anything they text or post can be screenshotted and shared by someone else. It takes less than a second to screenshot something. (Also, snaps on Snapchat don’t disappear if someone takes a screenshot!)

5. Familiarize yourself with popular social platforms so you have a better idea how each service works. You may want to create your own profile on these sites and apps to experience the networks firsthand. It is important to both understand so you can better supervise and to have credibility so your child knows that you think it’s important and that you want to learn about it.

6. If you don't currently allow your children to use social media, it's a good idea to let them know at what age they can start. If they think they will never get to make an account, they are more likely to make one secretly.

7. Many kids tend to underestimate how easily accessible their information is and can forget that others are watching their online activity. Helping them to understand the permanence of social media is essential. Anything they send or post - words or pictures - could remain in cyberspace forever and can resurface at any point in their lives. Have many small, casual conversations with your kids about this. Sharing articles of real life situations can be a good conversation starter.

8. Check your child’s privacy settings. Make sure that only friends can send snaps. For Instagram, profiles should be set to private and location should be off.

9. Be concrete with your child. Ask them to show you how they are going to use it (phone, social media, etc.) and show you how they would lose the privilege of having a phone or using social media. Click here for some models of screen time agreements that you can develop together with your child. This process can provide space for conversations about screen time and use of device, and the product can be a helpful reference point for future discussions.

10. Keeping lines of communication open is crucial. Ask your child to talk to you if something makes him/her uncomfortable, assuring him/her that you won’t be angry. Make room to talk about what your child is experiencing. Beyond that, be compassionate and caring, while still maintaining clear rules and setting limits. Mistakes on social media, like mistakes off of social media, can be teachable moments.

11. If you allow your student to create social media accounts, consider making a deal with them that includes you adding them as a Friend or following their account. This allows you to easily monitor (without having to be sneaky about it) and model behavior on these networks.

12. Last but not least, be a good example with social media and cell phone use. Consider that your children are watching you as a model. For example, try not to check your texts or email repeatedly when spending quality time with your family or at meals. Don’t check anything on your phone in your car, especially at a red light.