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Talking with your teen about their use of social media is the first step in allowing them to get online.

Through our own research and training, as well as our experiences of investigating crimes and incidents involving social media, the Azusa Police Department's Social Media Team has created these tips to help parents discuss social media with their teens. Often times, we have read articles recommending parents to speak with their teens about social media. However, we wanted to go a step further and actually give parents some topics to address when speaking with their teen.

The Discussion

When we talk about having a discussion with your teen, we truly mean a genuine, sit-down-at-the-table discussion. We're not talking about when your child is begging to open up a social media account or wants a new smartphone, that you simply say, “Okay, but you promise to show me your account when I ask?” After they agree, you tell them to go ahead as they start typing on the computer and creating the account.

This is a very serious topic, and parents need to have an in-depth discussion about social media. However, it might be difficult to speak on a subject you know nothing about, if you aren't using social media yourselves. If that's the case, you can always reach out to a more knowledgeable friend or family member to help you with the discussion.

So What Do You Talk About?

Here are our suggestions you might consider speaking about with your teen:

Account Access - Part of the agreement for allowing them to have a social media account, is that you will have access to their online account at any and all times.

Making Good Decisions - Explain to them that what they do today will forever follow them into the future. Social media is a permanent part of who they are, both personally and professionally. What they post online is a good representation of who they are, regardless of how they want to be perceived.

Social Media IS A Good Learning Tool - In a time where everything is open for the public, showing them the consequences of how they pose in a particular photo with particular clothing, or a photo of them in a compromising position, could have severe impacts when applying for higher education or employment. By learning to use social media wisely, they learn to make good decisions offline as well.

Online Bullying - They are NEVER allowed to participate, nor condone, online bullying. It’s understandable the friendly banter among friends, however, this is different from bullying. If they witness any bullying online, regardless of whether it is a friend, family member or someone they may not know, they are to tell you immediately.

Venting And Frustration - We are all human. We all experience times when we are not happy with someone else’ actions, speech or decisions they have made. We also understand teens are going to get upset with decisions we as parents make. The lesson to teach is that they need to keep their feelings for how they feel about their parents restricted to those directly involved - them, mom and dad. It’s understandable if they vent on social media over not going out on Saturday night, but it’s not acceptable to offer their opinion of what they think of their parents.

Authority Figures - Hopefully, your teen will want to have a great job someday. However, a boss will have a hard time giving them a job, if they see a constant pattern of berating people in a position of authority over your teen. 

Friends - If they didn’t invite them to join their social media page, or they don’t know who a person is, then they are not allowed to accept their friend request. Let them know you will be randomly checking who their friends are, to make sure they are safe.

You As A Friend - There are differences in opinions on whether parents should be friends or follow their teens on social media. Why would you, as a parent and someone who is in the position of responsibility, not be a friend of your teen online? If your teen is meeting their end of the agreement, they have nothing to worry about. Our take is, a parent should be involved in every possible way, with their teen online. It could be the difference between life or death, or your teen becoming a victim of a crime.