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9 Important Things to Do About Social Networking

Every day, young people are bombarded with digitally altered images of celebrities and paid influencers with impossibly perfect bodies supposedly “living the dream.” While we’re all guilty of comparison, teens are particularly vulnerable to its damaging effects. In this article, I’ll help parents navigate the complicated—and potentially dangerous—world of social media.


  1. Teach Your Teens How to Approach Social Media.

While social media can help your teen connect, they need to develop healthy habits and expectations. Help them consider the motives behind commercial, celebrity, and peer posts.


  1. You Can’t Keep Teens Off Social Media!

90 percent of teens aged 13-17 use social media. While you may be able to block your teen from having a phone for a while, trust me, they will find a way to access social media. The important thing is to train your teen to use technology and social media responsibly.


  1. Encourage Teens to Follow People Who Motivate and Affirm Who They Are.

Not everything online is bad. Your job is to train your child to be discerning. Encourage your teen to “follow” friends and influencers who build them up and block people who just want to tear them down.


  1. Body Image is Big. Eliminate the “Fat Talk.”

Scrolling through images of plastic people with perfect bodies has a negative impact on your teen. They need encouragement at home that affirms who they are and what they look like. If your family makes off-handed comments about your teen’s appearance, then you need to stop the “fat talk,” immediately.


  1. Encourage the Importance of Balancing Social Media with Real Life.

God has created your teen to be relational. Social media appeals to your teen’s need to connect. But teens can quickly become overwhelmed by the online drama. There is pressure to post content that gets “likes.” 


  1. Set Limits, Enforce Rules, and Boundaries.

Social media is here to stay. But you can have limits and boundaries for your teens commensurate with their age and maturity level. Your teen will push back against arbitrary or overly burdensome rules. At 12 years old your teen should not have unlimited access to the internet. Set time limits, filter searches, and lock up their phone at night. But by the time your teen is 18, they need to have developed their own internal controls, without mom and dad peeking over their shoulder. No matter how old you are, limits on social media are helpful. Having guidelines at home, such as “phone-free zones” at the dinner table, can help everyone use social media responsibly.


  1. Talk About Negative Self-Image.

It’s important to remind young people that social media reflects a cherry-picked highlight reel of the best part of people’s lives and it’s impossible to measure up against a steady stream of selfies and stories of friends who look “perfect.” Help your teen to see how comparison will steal the joy out of life.


  1. Talk About What’s Real, What’s Fake.

Parents have life experience to help them figure out what’s real and what’s fake, but teens are more vulnerable and they fall for things that adults might never think possible. Remember that there are people online who target teens and take advantage of their curiosity and lack of life experience. So help your teen learn to identify what’s real by talking with them about what they watch online. Yeah, some things are too good to be true.


  1. Educate Your Child on Social Media, Filters, and Comparisons.

There are new apps being developed every day. It’s impossible to investigate them all, but you need to do your best to know what’s out there. Ask your teen what apps he’s using or what his friends are using. Talk to your kids about the illusion of social media. Social media presents a false impression of real life and it’s easy to get lost in someone else’s fantasy.



Hey moms and dads … you’re faced with a new and interesting challenge––to help your teen learn to manage the opportunity of connection and understand the negative aspects that social networking can have on their life. Teens want to connect and they want to be praised for their accomplishments. They want to be listened to and they want someone to show an interest in their life. Knowing that they can find that online means you must determine alternative ways to provide engagement offline, to meet their needs in a way that social networking cannot. So here are a couple of things to accept: Accept that social networking isn’t going away. Accept your teen’s need to engage with peers. And here’s one more challenge: Will you accept the role that you play to offer them what they’re searching for?

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.