Parenting Teenagers

Co-Create a Plan for Social Media

connecting with your teenager Nov 11, 2022

The other day my wife and I planned to meet for dinner at a pizza restaurant called Pies and Pints.  This place has become one of our go to dinner spots because of an awesome street corn pizza they have.  On this particular night I arrived at the restaurant about 30 minutes early with my computer.  The plan was to grab something to drink and start outlining my next blog post while I waited for my wife to arrive. As I sat down, I noticed a family of four at the table next to me.  Dad was sitting next to his nine or ten year old son and Mom was sitting next to their twelve or thirteen year old daughter.  It had the appearance of a pleasant family night out.   After a few minutes of setting my computer up our waiter stopped by and I ordered an ice tea.  At this point I noticed that mom didn’t seem to be enjoying the night out.  The younger brother had an I-Pad out and appeared to be playing a game. His older sister was busy sending a text message on her phone and dad was scrolling through some kind of social media or news feed. All the while, Mom was just looking at the three of them as she ate her pizza in silence.  I may have been reading into it, but I couldn’t help but feel that the mother seemed sad.  


I bring this up because this scenario is becoming more and more common.  If you are struggling with social media and gaming, here are some thoughts for opening the conversation with your teenager. 


First let’s set some context. The intention with this approach is to open the conversation with the goal of co-creating, with your teenager, a plan for responsible use of social media or gaming. The key word in this sentence is co-creating. Social media and gaming are two areas where trying to control what your teenager does will just lead to conflict.  


What do you think would have happened if the mother, at the pizza restaurant, would have demanded that everyone put their phones away? 


I am suggesting a longer term objective.   The goal is to empower your teenager to make responsible choices related to social media and gaming.  This skill will serve them into their adult life.


Here are two key points for starting this conversation.


Do a self check before you start the conversation. Being firmly grounded in a love based mindset will be critical to connecting with your teenager. Focus on compassion, forgiveness and gratitude.


Next, open the conversation with the goal of establishing common ground and hearing your teenager out. 


Try something like this…


“It amazes me how you can stay so connected to your friends with social media.  Your world is so different than mine was when I was your age.  I heard though that sometimes social media can be used in a bad way.  To me social media seems kinda like a car.   Getting a driver's license and having a car to drive can be awesome for a teenager…right. The freedom to go places and have time with your friends. But that same car can cause problems if you aren’t careful or make bad choices.”


Can you see how this approach establishes that you aren’t against them and social media while at the same time acknowledging that there are some risks?  This is the common ground.


Now seek to understand and hear your teenager out by asking open ended questions.  Ask questions like…


  •  What do you like most about social media?
  •  How would you feel and what would happen if you didn’t get on your social media for one day?
  •  Have you seen any situations where someone has been hurt by social media? Followed by … What happened?
  •  An article popped up the other day that said that colleges are reviewing the social media accounts of the high school students applying to get in … What do you think about that?


As they share their thoughts, be careful not to slip into fix it or lecture mode.  This is the quickest way to shut them down.  Your goal is to build connection and trust, while gaining insight into how they view social media and gaming.  They should leave the conversation feeling like they have been heard. 


At this point you could introduce the idea of working together to develop a plan for the family.  Here is what that could sound like…


“I really appreciate you sharing so openly.  I feel like I learned alot and have a better appreciation for what is going on in your life.  I can see how social media (or gaming) is an important part of your daily life, but to be honest I have some concerns about the risk. I think the best way to have you enjoy the benefits of social media (or gaming) while, at the same time reducing the risk is for us to come up with some guidelines together. That seems fair … doesn’t it?”


Can you see how this approach opens the door to designing limits and a plan that works for both you and your teenager?


Finally, to the mother at the pizza joint… There is hope.   It is possible to reestablish the connections within your family and to bring the joy back to your family dinners.  Start by taking a stand for the healing power of love.


Jim White

Family Enrichment Coach





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