We’re well past the point of social media being an optional extra in our lives. 

Access to social media has moved from ‘nice to have’ to essential.

And our young people are the target market. 

To ignore social media would be to exclude them from a future in which social media is a necessary tool. 

At the same time, we also want to guide them through the emerging pitfalls of social media use, teaching them balance. And we notice we are not experts, we’re behind from the beginning because it’s our rakatahi who are the digital natives, not us!

Social media tools are addictive. Edward Tufte reminds us that, “There are only two industries who call their customers ‘users’ – illegal drugs and computer software.” Many dollars are spent in the bid to cultivate new and young consumers of products and services in this industry. 

As parents we know and understand it takes a combination of skills, knowledge and attitude to be able to cultivate and grow a full and happy life. Ignoring opportunities to develop these skills will leave our young people struggling in other areas. Spending a high proportion of their days on social media decreases their opportunities in many other areas of their lives. 

Social media is not the ‘enemy’ here. The concern is the amount of time our young people spend on social media, ignoring the basics of their lives. Due to its addictive nature, social media has a natural appeal over the perceived drudgery of day-to-day activities.

Where does a parent begin?

First of all, we’re not problem-solving. We are solution-generating. This mindset change makes an enormous difference to our approach and our results. 

A contract about social media is an awesome approach to take. The wording only needs to be brief. It’s the discussion about the agreement that is the important part. Not only are we using this contract as a teaching tool about life balance, We’re also teaching negotiation skills and modeling great communication practices. 

In any good family contract there needs to be: 

  • A date
  • Names of parties involved
  • Up to five agreements (more is an overkill)
  • A place for both parties to sign

And it’s going to change, so scribble it out on the back of a paper bag and stick it on your fridge.

I’m in, but where do I start?!?

  1. Monitor the current amount of social media consumption your young person indulges in. Notice the time they’re spending on devices and keep a record. Do this thoroughly and completely for at least two ‘normal’ weeks so you get even patterns emerging. 
  2. Bring your findings up as you share your concerns with your young person. If they are spending all this time on social media, how are they getting their school work done, meeting their household responsibilities and covering off ‘The Basics’ of their lives?
  3. Brainstorm potential solutions with your young person. Accept all suggestions without judgement at this stage. It’s super important to write down all the ridiculous ideas because after they’ve exhausted all of those they will come up with some awesome ideas too. Letting them share ALL their ideas with no judgement gives your rakatahi a sense of freedom – they get to have their say. You will also be contributing ideas, also in a ‘no judgement’ way.
  4. A day or two later go through the suggestions together. Find the ideas that are workable and use these as the bullet points in your social media contract. The end result will be an equal input agreement. One that covers your boundaries while allowing your young person’s voice to be heard. 
  5. Your contract needs to include both incentives and consequences. 
  6. Agree to a trial period and a time when the contract will be revised. If it’s working, great. If it needs some small changes, make them together. If it’s not working go back to step 1. 
  7. Seal your contract with a signature and a handshake. 

The Hidden Benefits:

Not only are you generating solutions for the use of social media in your household, this process also teaches your young person to:

  • Express their needs
  • Listen to others
  • Find balance
  • Look at the bigger picture
  • Take responsibility for their actions

How’s that for win-win? 

Some days it does feel like “Chop wood, carry water” and that’s ok. All those daily repetitions completed with love add up to a young person who is showing up in the world ready to step into their best life. 

Now that you’ve read this post, what changes will you make as a result? For added guidance on your parenting journey, schedule a call with Melanie here.