There are several things families can do to ‘act’ rather than be ‘acted upon’ by social media influences. Here are several specific and practical suggestions that can be a starting point for managing social media in your family:
- Talk about social media with your spouse and children. Hear what they have to say, share your views, and counsel together about the role of social media for your family. Discuss both the beneficial opportunities and the potential hazards of social media.
- Parents should model the social media habits and behavior they want their children (and spouses) to have. Beyond modeling proper mobile-device social etiquette and responsible limits on usage and frequency, parents can demonstrate being a positive influence and supportive of others in their posts, likes, comments and shares.
- Establish family rules for social media use. Rules may include guidelines for appropriate posts, photos, likes and comments; limits on social media use during family time or couple dates; use of social media-enabled devices at the dinner table or in bed; social guidelines for interrupting in-person conversations or face-face interactions to check social media alerts; or having all family members be friends and followers of each other. It is important all family members understand the “why” behind each rule and guideline.
- Transparency – social media use should be completely transparent between spouses and between parents and their children. There are significant benefits when spouses have access to each other social media accounts, when parents have access to children’s accounts, and when both adolescents and parents have full access to each other’s devices and accounts. This level of accountability significantly reduces the potential for hidden social media accounts and inappropriate social media use.
- Monitor the amount of time spent on social media and set limits as appropriate. Use available tools to objectively monitor how much time individual family members spend on social media – guesstimates fuel subjective disputes and typically underestimate actual times. Leverage tools like Screen Time (Apple iOS) and Family Link (Android) to accurately measure time spent on social media.
- Don’t overreact or be over-controlling, especially with adolescents.
“Be careful to not regiment excessively the use of technology or proliferate endless rules and restrictions. Desired attitudes and righteous behavior cannot flourish in the soil of constantly constraining control and coercion.” (David A. Bednar, “They Should Proclaim These Things unto the World”, 2016 Seminar for New Mission Presidents)
- Parents of young children should limit time spent on social media as appropriate for their age. The specific social media apps and services children use should also be age appropriate.
- Teach children and adolescents about the long-term implications of their social media activities.
- Parents should periodically revisit these discussions and guidelines as children get older or their use of social media platforms expand.