Many parents who are concerned about their tween’s/teen’s use of their computers—especially as it relates to social media–often seek out good books for 11 year olds.
In preparation for addressing this trend, I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading articles and books about kids and social media. Fortunately, I stumbled onto the podcast, Hold Me Back: Son and Father Change the Conversation (Aidan and Ash EIDifrawi).
In their October 12, 2022, podcast: Teens and Their Screens, father and son discuss an incredibly enlightening book about teens/tweens, and social media. The book, written by Carrie James and Emily Weinstein, is titled, Behind Their Screens: What Teens are Facing (And Adults are Missing).
James and Weinstein conducted a nationwide study involving thousands of teens/tweens which resulted in the affirmation of one of my staple beliefs: “Things are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. It is how they are handled that makes them good or bad.” This applies to social media which, according to Teens and Their Screens, can be beneficial to young people if handled appropriately.
In order for social media to be good for young people, James and Weinstein recommend that “parents act like coaches, not referees.” At the same time, Aidan and Ash recommend that “parents be advisors, not directors.” This means that policing tweens/ teens and the use of their computers is not the most effective way to deal with a young person’s interactions with social media.
Alternatively, parents are well-advised to avoid being judgmental and punitive and instead become part of a positive, continuing dialogue with their tweens/teens. This can be accomplished by beginning an open, honest conversation with a question like, “Is your use of social media enhancing your self-esteem, well-being, and productivity? And if not, how do you feel about that?” Listening carefully to your tween’s/teen’s answers and respecting what they have to say will go a long way in establishing a back-and-forth that can help keep your young person on the right track.
Meanwhile, if you are concerned about cyberbullying, I highly recommend that you read Chapter Four in Teens and Their Screens titled, Small Slights, Big Fights.
And if you are concerned about your tween/teen sexting, I recommend Chapter Five in Teens and Their Screens titled Nudes (And Why Teens Sext When they Know the Risks).
In closing, as I have always said to my kids and the kids I work with, “Your things should not be in control of you. You need to be in control of your things.” If you replace the word “things” with the words “social media,” you will have my main advice when it comes to young people and social media.