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How to Keep Your Middle School Child Safe on Social Media

Social media is a hotly debated topic among parents. From when you should allow your child to start using it to how much privacy they should have online, nothing is black and white. While social media has plenty of benefits, it also has risks, including interaction with potentially harmful strangers, the addictive nature of infinite scrolling, and modeling of unhealthy behaviors.

According to the American Psychological Association, these risks are “likely to be greater in early adolescence—a period of greater biological, social, and psychological transitions, than in late adolescence and early adulthood.” 

Despite the downfalls, social media can encourage connection with friends and help young people explore their interests. So, how do we balance the benefits with the risks? Here are a few ways to help keep your child safe on social media.

Set Ground Rules

First, set ground rules before they get online. Make it clear that they have to keep their social media profile private and can’t share personal information, such as their age, address, and phone number, online. 

We can’t control everything our kids do online, nor should we. Getting their own social media account is a big step toward independence. Setting ground rules is like putting training wheels on a bike. These rules help keep kids safe until they’re old enough to make their own decisions.    

Talk About How Social Media Creates Unrealistic Expectations

Social media can take a big toll on body image and self-confidence, especially for young girls going through puberty. If you start to notice your child is very focused on their own looks or the looks of influencers in their social media feed, discuss the difference between social media and reality. 

Influencers use filters and makeup to drastically change their appearance. Many of these influencers have also had body modifications or plastic surgery to achieve their look. Involve your child in exploring different ways to spot filters. Encourage your child to follow influencers who are honest about their struggles and appearance. 

Make sure you’re supporting your kids with compliments that are more than skin-deep. Instead of saying, “You’re so beautiful,” compliment how hard-working they are or their dedication to their hobbies. Teach them to value themselves and the people around them for more than just their looks. 

Watch for Warning Signs of Addiction

Social media is designed to keep users hooked. Natasha Schüll, the author of Addiction by Design told the University of Michigan that,  “Whether it’s Snapchat streaks, Facebook photo-scrolling, or playing CandyCrush, Schüll explained, you get drawn into “ludic loops” or repeated cycles of uncertainty, anticipation and feedback — and the rewards are just enough to keep you going..”

You might need to intervene if your child…

  • Spends more time on social media than they do with their friends and family

  • Chooses to scroll through their phone instead of playing outside

  • Continues to spend time on social media even after expressing a desire to stop

  • Deceives parents and teachers to spend more time online

Model Healthy Social Media Habits

As a role model for your child, you have to be careful about your own habits. If you limit your child to one hour of phone time a day, you shouldn’t spend hours scrolling. If you allow your social media use to get out of control, your child will follow suit. Watch for warning signs of social media obsession in yourself, as well as your children. 

Create rules that everyone has to follow, like no phones at dinner and during family time. Try to get outside or do a family activity daily. This will get harder as your child gets older and fills their schedule with extracurriculars, so instill these habits young. 

Keep your child safe online by giving them the confidence they need to navigate the world as they grow. Sign them up for a LeadYouth membership today. 


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