Social Media Conversations with Children | Center for Growth Therapy

Social Media Conversations With Children : Family Therapy in Philadelphia

Christian , LPC — Therapist, director of child & teen therapy

Child and Adolescent Therapy in Philadelphia

SOCIAL MEDIA CONVERSATIONS TO HAVE WITH YOUR CHILD

If you are a parent of a millennial or younger, you have the pleasure of being forced into the electronic universe that children are so engulfed in. Some of this digital universe is filled with games and fun, silly videos, chat conversations and a slew of harmless content. But there are nefarious apps and content that you may not be privy to as a parent that you may want to be aware of.

General ideas on how you can help keep your child safe from apps including the following:

  • Monitoring the apps your child uses on their phone, laptop, desktop, or any other electronic device

  • Knowing the purpose of the apps on your child’s electronic device

  • Checking the geo-location option on your child’s phone to make sure it is disabled

  • Having Internet safety conversations with your child

  • Being cognizant of what your child possesses because some online predators entice children with money, objects, likes on social media, clothes, payment for nails and hair, cell phones, hotel stays, or any other offering in exchange for something they want from your child

  • Being open to having dialogue with your child about their experiences online

If you are not certain as to how to do some of these safety tips, there are resources online you can search for, resources at your local police station, and by contacting your telephone provider or manufacturer.

The important message here is that having an understanding about certain apps can empower you to have meaningful conversations as well as protect your child better from apps that can be harmful to your child.

When you aren’t able to protect your child, what can you do? One recommendation is to have dialogue with your child to learn how they were introduced to apps, what draws them in, and discussing safety concerns. Below you will find points of discussion to start you on your journey of learning about your child’s interest in social media exploration and how to get closer to them by taking interest in their world…because let’s face it, technology is not going away any time soon. It would be good to understand what your child has access to as well as what leads them to particular apps and programs. Start here:

Opening Dialogue with your Child

  • Take interest in their interests

  • Be curious

  • Explore with your child

  • Learn about your child’s online friends

  • Teach your child online safety

Take interest in your child’s online interests

As a parent you can show your child that you want to learn about them via their online activity. You can start the dialogue by asking your child what types of activities they like to do online and show interest in them.

Questions to ask:

  • “There are so many apps online. Once I learn one app, there are so many that pop up. I kind of get confused and I don’t know where to begin. Can you tell me about some of the apps you like?”

  • “Have you used any chat apps online? Which chat apps do you like to use? How do you use it? I am trying to find a good one to use to talk to my friends and I have no idea on where to start.”

  • “I’m looking for fun game apps. Have you played any fun game apps online? What game apps do you like? What drew you to that game app? Which game apps do you think I would like? Can you show me how to find fun game apps that I can play on my phone?”

  • “I heard people talking about the __________ app. That was the first time I heard of it. Have you ever heard of it? What is it? What does the app do? Do you have the app? What drew you to the app? If you have the app, can you show me how to use it?”

Taking the time to learn about what your child’s interests are, you can gain insight into their mindset and how they approach online interactions with social media apps. This also allows your child to be seen by you and may open dialogue and future conversations about other topics your child may be interested in or experiencing in their daily lives.



Be Curious

Being curious about what interests your child in a particular app can not only give you insight on what apps your child is using, but also lets your child know that you are taking interest in their interests. Your child will have the opportunity to take the driver seat and lead the conversation, and at the same time give you a road map to their interests.

If you observe your child while they are online, you can say, “That game/app/chat looks interesting. I like the graphics on it. It can sometimes be confusing to know how to use it. It looks fun. When you are done, can you show me how to use it on my phone?” This gives your child empowerment and also allows them to see that you are interested in their world.

Here are other questions you can ask to be curious about your child’s social media engagement when they are not actively using the app, but mentions it or it’s brought up in conversation:

  • “I know some people learn about apps from their friends or influencers. How did you find out about this particular app?”

  • “When you used the app for the first time, was the app hard to figure out? As you were using the app, did you find some things about the app that were interesting to you? If so, what were they?”

  • “Do you think the app is fun, or are there things that you don’t like about it? If there are fun things about the app, what are they?”

  • “What are some of the cool features the app has to offer? What can the app do? Are there ways in which you think the app should be different?”

Explore with your child

It can be difficult sometimes as a parent to separate yourself from having wisdom and knowledge of the dangers of some social media platforms and your child’s generation of social media and natural exploration. In today’s times, children are privy to social media in the ways older adults only dreamed of when the adult was younger. This new horizon has the world at children’s fingertips, and they want to explore. Adults have to sometimes remember what it was like to be a child and how they wanted to explore the world around them with the tools that were available at that time, excluding social media.

You can research some apps that you think you and your child could enjoy together. Some of the apps can be popular, such as SnapFish or Tik Tok; or you can introduce them to something you both can do together. Such apps can be Duolingo, Lumino City, Garage Band, Geocaching, word puzzle games, exploratory games, etc.

After you learn about your child’s interests and the particular apps they are drawn to, it may be helpful in your search to find apps you both can participate in together. Ahead of time, you can seek apps that you think are developmentally appropriate for your child’s age and something that may be fun to keep their interests.

Here are some ways to introduce the topic to your child:

  • “Have you ever heard of ______ app?”

  • “This app seems fun, and I would like to see if you want to play along with me?”

  • “What do you think about checking this app out together?”

  • “Do you know of any apps that you think we might like to play together?”

  • “Are there any apps that you find challenging and would like help figuring out?”

Learn about your child’s online friends

Learning about your child’s friends was easier in earlier days; however, it can be a barrier with social media apps and the ultimate privacy that comes with it. You may remember the days when children had their friends come over to the house often, ask to have your child visit their house and even know the children that interacted with your child from the neighborhood, sports teams, and after school activities. Now children have the ability to make friends online through gaming apps, chat apps, and online forums.

Also consider how Covid changed the way children interact with their peers. For two years they had to adjust to connecting with their peers virtually, which in some cases could have been a lifeline for them or a detriment if they are naturally extroverted social children.

Another consideration to your child’s online social friends is the need it fulfills in your child. Does your child feel more accepted with their online friends, do they have more confidence and feel more comfortable dialoguing virtually than in person, do they pair gaming with socializing while online?

Here are some tips on how to have the conversation with your child about their online friends:

  • “I’ve noticed you’ve made some friends online. Was it easy to identify them or challenging?”

  • “Who would you consider to be good online friends? What drew you to them? What do you like about them?”

  • “Do your online friends make you feel comfortable? In what ways?”

  • “Do your online friends ever ask you to do something you don’t want to do? Or ask you to comment on someone else in a way you don’t feel comfortable?”

  • “What do you find to be the difference between online friends versus in person friends?”

Your child may discuss an online friend that they are close with. How can you be sure their online friend is a peer or an adult? It would be important for you to inquire about the peer to learn the truth about who is communicating with your child. Here are some steps you can follow to uncover the identity of your child’s online friend:

  • Ask your child the name and age of their friend.

  • Do a precursor internet check on the name provided so see if there are any other social media presence on the name given. Checking other social media presence can tell you if the person is using the same photo, demographics, language, or any other information about them.

  • Ask your child for the telephone number of their friend.

  • Ask your child if they know the names of their friend’s parents.

  • Set up a video call with your child, your child’s friend, and your child’s friend’s parents.

  • If there is resistance from your child’s friend, inquire and be cautious.

  • Make the decision to allow or not allow your child to continue communication with the online friend.

  • If you find that you are uncomfortable with the interactions of your child’s online friend or get a red flag about the online friend’s parents, explain to your child why you don’t think it would be appropriate for your child to continue communications with the online friend. Sometimes adult predators can use children as proxies to do their bidding. Let’s say the online friend is actually an adult who has a child living in the home. The predator may have their child pose as your child’s friend during the video call to decrease suspicion. To combat that, ask the child on the call questions pertaining to the chats and conversations your child had with them and observe how they answer.

Above are some guidelines to help you start a dialogue with your child about online activity. This includes cell phones with the use of apps, gaming chats, and any other mode of social media that your child has access to communicate with others. If you feel you need additional help with conversing with your child about their online activity,You can self schedule an in-person or virtual couples therapy session at the Center for Growth by calling (215) 922-5683 x 100.

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Computer Generated Response to "Social Media Conversations with Children" as opposed to the way a human therapist at the Center for Growth might respond to the prompt. You decide whose answer has more meaning to you. Human VS Computer

Social media conversations with children

Social media conversations with children can be important for educating them about the potential risks and benefits of using social media, as well as setting boundaries and expectations for their use.

It is a good idea to start these conversations early, as children are increasingly exposed to social media at a young age. Parents can discuss the importance of privacy and security, and help children understand how to use social media in a safe and responsible way. Parents may also establish rules and guidelines for social media use, such as time limits, appropriate content, and monitoring usage.

It's also important for parents to model appropriate social media behavior themselves and to be aware of the apps and platforms that their children are using. Children may also benefit from learning about digital literacy, media literacy and online safety, in order to help them navigate the digital world more effectively.

It is also essential to keep open communication lines with children, so they feel comfortable talking to their parents if they encounter any problems or concerns online. This can help build trust and ensure that children feel supported and safe when using social media.

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