Especially when it comes to social media access, you and your rangatahi can be poles apart. You have one idea, your teens have another idea. And it’s pretty hard to see how and where they’ll fit together, or even where a mutual starting place is. 

All good conflicts begin with two opposing points of view. And those pesky differences keep changing. That’s just what happens. You don’t have to like it, in fact, lots of us won’t like it. Conflict isn’t something we’re raised to be comfortable with. 

Savvy parents of teens learn to work with the process, instead of digging their toes in and deciding on their rightness. They’ll listen to their rangatahi to find out where they stand. Then take the conversation from there.

And before they even get to that place in the discussion, they will take some time to work out what it is they want, and why they want it.

Now is the perfect time to renegotiate the rules around device use and social media access as we emerge from another lockdown. Many parents have ‘allowed’ their adolescents extra, or unrestricted, access to their devices over lockdown. Mainly for the following reasons:

  1. All school has been happening online and devices were needed for this.
  2. Devices have been the only way our rangatahi have been able to keep up their friendships and be connected with their peer group.

Fair enough. Lockdowns are a time of adaptation and devices have played their part. Now we’re back in the ‘real world’ again and this change gifts us the perfect opportunity to renegotiate the boundaries we (the parents) would like to set around social media access. 

Step One:

Before you begin your negotiations you need to be very clear about where you (and your partner) stand on the issue of social media access. Any hesitancy or division from you will be noticed and become a targeted area of weakness. If you’re opening up these negotiations with a  viewpoint of “this is something I should do, but I’m not sure why,” then stop right there. Do the work on your why. That’s the first step. Otherwise don’t bother. And make peace with your decision to not be concerned.  

Step Two:

Craft a well-thought-out opening line for negotiations. This has three parts to it:

  1. A black and white statement of fact.
  2. The effect this statement of fact has.
  3. How it makes you feel.

So a well-crafted opening line may sound like this, “When you are on social media from 10 am until 10 pm, (statement of fact) I don’t get to see you (the effect) and this makes me feel (how it makes you feel) frustrated.” 

A good opening line is short (between 20 and 30 words) and contains all of the above pieces. You are opening negotiations here, not telling a story. 

Step Three:

Listen for their reply and reflect back on what you hear them say. There will be a variety of responses. The point of opening up your dialogue is to find out where they stand –  and to be able to do that you must know what they think. It doesn’t matter if what they say is something you disagree with at this point. What matters at this stage is they know you have heard them. 

They will reply and you summarise their reply, “It sounds like … (insert a short summary).  You may very well hear yourself say, “It sounds like you don’t think this is a problem.” And then you wait, and hear them say, “Yes.” Or maybe,  “No, that’s not quite it.” Just keep going with the listening and summarising until you have an agreement that you understand them correctly. 

Step Four:

You say, “Well, I have a different opinion. When would you like to talk about this?” And you make a time in the near future to have a discussion about their social media use. 

This step is crucial because it’s laying an attitude of co-operation and consideration. Just by doing this, you are teaching them how to negotiate. 

Step Five:

Agree on a time and venue.

Step Six:

Open the negotiations with another clear statement of the problem.

  1. The black and white facts
  2. The effects of these facts.
  3. How you feel about this.

Step Seven:

Listen to their reply and summarise what they’re telling you. 

Step Eight:

Write the problem in the center of a piece of paper. Ask them for their suggestions. Add a few of your suggestions. 

Step Nine:

Thank them for their thoughts so far and make an agreement based on the suggestions made, OR thank them for their thoughts so far and make another time to continue the discussion. 

Things may well get heated so it pays to remember this is a partnership you are establishing, not a dictatorship. Of course you’re not going to agree to unlimited access. What you’re looking for is a way forward together that suits both you and your rangatahi. Every whānau will reach their own solution, and it will be unique to them. 

Using this process lets your rangatahi feel seen, heard, and, most importantly, valued. Even if it takes a while to reach an agreement, undertaking these discussions will be a beautiful step towards growing an adult-to-adult parent/child relationship in the near future.  

Discover how to resolve conflicts like a ninja and set yourself and your adolescent children up for relationships that serve. Visit and take the first step on your journey. 

A journey that will not only impact you but will also impact your children.