Raising children in a digital age where social media plays such a large role in our daily lives creates new layers of safety and social concerns for parents. Thankfully, more recently parents are having discussions about what the role of social media will look like in their own children’s lives, including when they will have access to these media and under what level of supervision. It’s just as important, however, to decide what boundaries you want other family members and caregivers to acknowledge when it comes to involving your children with their social media use. While every family will feel differently about managing social media, it’s important to have these discussions to set expectations.
Understanding the Importance of Setting Social Media Boundaries
Social media can keep us in touch with old friends and far-away family members, or inspire and teach us; it can also be a breeding ground for toxic thoughts, unhealthy comparisons, and mentally damaging images. Where children are involved, the negative aspects tend to stack up. There are safety concerns, such as private information being shared publicly or a permanent virtual footprint being established before they even have a say. Seek awareness over these issues and have conversations with your parenting partner about what you are and are not comfortable with, when it comes to what is shared on social media.
Prioritizing Your Family’s Safety and Comfort First and Foremost
Understand that even when you put a lot of consideration into setting boundaries to benefit your children, not every person in your life will share how you feel. Whether it’s social media use, how you discipline or when bedtime is to be—everyone will have an opinion! Even when it’s difficult, prioritize what makes you feel comfortable when it comes to your children’s safety, mental health, and future.
Questions to consider when creating social media boundaries:
- Am I comfortable with photos/videos of my child on social media?
- Are there specific boundaries around what kind of photos/videos can be shared?
- Do I want to approve content that pertains to my child before it’s posted?
- Is there any information about my child/family that is off limits to share?
- Are there any social media platforms that I don’t want my child shared on?
- Do you refrain from “real time” images being shared when my child is somewhere else besides at home?
- What will or won’t my child be happy about that I shared online when they are older?
- Are there privacy settings I want enforced if content is being shared?
Communicate Clearly and Set Firm, Equal Boundaries
Conversations around boundaries aren’t exactly ‘“fun” to have or to hear. To keep things as neutral as possible when sharing with your friends and family; try to be as clear as possible about what you are asking. This includes any absolutes you decide on—the things that you really need them to agree on and understand fully. It may be helpful to provide a simple statement as to why these boundaries are important. This isn’t because you have to justify your parenting, but to help drill in the importance of what you’re doing, so they absorb it fully. Equal boundaries can help prevent different people from following different rules, or ill feelings coming out later. For example, whatever boundaries you express to your mother-in-law, be sure to share the same ones with your own mother! (That’s just an argument waiting to happen!)
Have a Plan for When Someone Inevitably Messes Up
Remember, there will be slip ups! Perhaps grandma saw no harm in sharing photos from the family pool day on her Facebook—she wasn’t thinking about the request you made to not share photos of your kids in bathing suits or not fully clothed. Instead of calling to tell poor grandma off, think about kindly reminding her about the boundaries you’ve set and why these are important to your family. More than likely, it will be a good reminder and hopefully result in her removing the photo. These reminders aren’t meant to make anyone feel bad, but to advocate for your children and their safety.
Allow Space for Change and Boundaries to Evolve with Time
Just because you did or didn’t have a certain boundary set previously doesn’t mean you can’t change that now. Remember that’s your prerogative as a parent. You, more than anyone, know your child and their emotional and mental maturity, allowing you to be most informed and make decisions at different stages for which boundaries may be appropriate. There is nothing wrong with evolving your boundaries and sharing those updates with family members if it helps them to keep enforcing what you’re working on at home, or the safety of your child a priority.