Some teens know how to balance their social media lives and, with the help of their parents, they make it through with few blunders. Others do not. Learn more here about balanced use, warning signs, and keeping this entertainment technology from controlling your teen’s life.


At what age should I allow social media?

The legal age is 13 years old for some platforms, BUT because the cognitive brain is not fully developed until age 25, many parents are realizing that they need to delay social media use until their teen is more mature and responsible. Please NOTE: Social Media is an entertainment technology and is NOT necessary for learning, future success, or social development.


Can social media hurt my child?

Yes. Many parents worry that their child will be a social outcast without it, but studies show that Social Media is actually MORE ISOLATING and there is potential to get more left out online than in real life. Hence the RISE in Social Media ANXIETY in today’s child psychology offices and the reason why parents are choosing to limit access. Studies say that the more teens look at social media, the more distressed they become. It is a parent’s job to monitor their teen’s social media use and know the warning signs of trouble.


Do I need to monitor my child's social media?

Yes. Kids need accountability for what they are posting online and parents need to be following all of their child’s accounts in order to do this effectively. Nothing is private online so it should not be private to parents. From multiple profiles to vault apps, parents need to stay on top of the current social media culture and help their kids navigate this world. Be aware that a social media footprint is extremely difficult and costly to erase.

Physical Effects with Every Buzz

Unlimited access to social media hinders ability to form deep relationships, TRUST doesn’t form over social media platforms but rather over time and in person.

How Teens use Social Media.

There are teenagers that utilize Social Media correctly.  A healthy relationship with social media is one where a teen does the following:

  • Rarely has an active presence on their feeds.
  • Posts few photos and makes few comments.
  • He or she can do homework and other activities without checking in on social media.
  • They are very active with different friend groups and have face-to-face connections.
  • Maintains strong personal relationships with family members.
  • Rarely gossip and is aware of the drama that is associated with social media.
  • Doesn’t feel pressure to fit in.


Unfortunately, we are aware that this is not the case for most teenagers.  Being on screens is a full time job for teenagers and it becomes another full time job for the parents who are involved in the online presence of their teenager.  

So what are they doing online?

Lurking = Viewing social media feeds without posting

Lurking is a full time, stressful job for teens. They check their social media over 200 times a day, asking themselves, “Do I fit in?”, “Am I popular?”, and creating levels of anxiety for which they are not equipped to handle.

Lurking is STRESSFUL:

  • 21% say they are making sure no one is saying mean things about me
  • 36 % I want to see if my friends are doing things without me
  • 61% I want to see if my posts are getting likes and comments


Did you know there is a schedule of when to post to get the most comments or likes on your picture or comment? Today’s teenagers try to get the best return on their investment and they are investing their time on social media during times when they know the most people will see them and comment in return.  One may think that it is not a big deal to comment, like, or post; but when one’s self-worth is tied directly into a thumbs up icon, a comment or a heart, it becomes a huge deal to them.

Liking/Commenting/Posting is STRESSFUL:

  • Constant comparison to others believing that EVERYONE is watching them
  • Devalues self worth and decreases self confidence
  • Easily leads to unintentional (or intentional) bullying

FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

Today’s generation has serious worry about missing out.  Whether it is something that is happening at school, in their community, in their city, in their state, or even nationally; Today’s teenagers get most of their news from the various social media outlets to which they are connected.


  • It leads to stress and anxiety which can lead to depression
  • Causes one to be in a hyper-vigilant state and never allows your brain to rest
  • Creates a constant state of distraction, preventing any sort of deep thinking or concentration

Social Media Warning Signs

Social media is great if it was intended to be used the way it was created.  It is hard to believe that creators of some of the most popular apps created them with the intentions of its users to tear people down, tie their own self-worth to them, bully one another and get addicted to them.  It is an avenue for its users to share partial truths and not paint a full picture and the hard part is to separate truth from reality. Think about your child, if you can identify with any of the statements below you may need to get more involved in their social media world.

Does Your Teenager…

The Dark Side of Social Media

KNOW what your teen is doing online – Everyone else does

“I never met a predator who the child DID NOT LOVE!” – FBI Agent, Charlotte, NC

82% of ONLINE SEX CRIMES against minors started when the perpetrator used the victim’s SOCIAL NETWORKING site to gain information and introduction.

Protecting your Child from Sextortion

  1. Do INSPECTIONS on all accounts:  If you have NOT MET a person in your child’s Social Media network, then YOU ARE letting STRANGERS into your home. You need to commit to sitting down with them weekly and reviewing their accounts, and if they can’t tell you who they are and where they met, that person needs to be deleted.
  2. NO COMPUTERS/SCREENS IN THE BEDROOM:  Make sure any SCREEN use in the home is done in an “open area”
  3. Know about VAULT APPS: These are apps like calculators that HIDE another app behind it. When you open the calculator, if the screen flashes a company BRAND before it loads the calculator, then it’s likely hiding something behind it. If you enter a number and it’s not the security code, it will delete whatever was hiding behind it. TO DO: Do a “Vault Search” in the app store from their device. If the app is NOT on their device, the word, “GET” appears next to the app for download. If the app is already on the phone, the word, “OPEN” will appear.
  4. Make sure PARENTAL CONTROLS are in place on ALL electronic devices.
  5. Know ALL PASSWORDS for all your child’s devices, email accounts, and social networking sites
  6. Check TEXT MESSAGES on phones.
  7. Turn OFF LOCATION SERVICES on cells phones to disable GEOTAGGING.
  8. DISABLE cameras on cell phones and computers: For iPhones, got to Settings, Restrictions, and turn camera to OFF.
  9. TALK TO YOUR KIDS and pay attention to their actions/reactions.
  10. NEVER POST or GIVE OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION on social networking sites.

Download our 1-Pager on Common Apps used in Sextoration Cases

Three Types of Cyberbullying

  1. Harassment:  Harassment defined is aggressive pressure or intimidation.  Social media are the perfect outlets harassment to occur as it is easy to do it anonymously and with little accountability to what they write.  Cyberstalking is a type of harassment associated with cyberbullying.
  2. Exclusion:  Exclusion is exactly what is sounds like, when a group of your ‘friends’ exclude you and post about it, sometimes going even as far as posting and ganging up on the person they excluded.  This plants the seeds of doubt in a person that makes her question her own self-worth.
  3. Outing:  Outing is when a “friend” shares personal/private info you,


“Sexting” is the practice of using a data phone or social media to distribute nude and/or explicit photos of oneself to another person or groups of people. Teens today think that sexting is a normal activity because it is so common.

Dangers of Sexting

  • Teenage relationships and even friendships do not always last forever. Once those ties are cut the teen who sent photos of themselves to someone no longer has control over that photo. The person who received that photo can be redistributed without the knowledge or consent of the person who sent it.
  • In many states, It is illegal to possess or transfer child pornography even if the picture is of oneself and the image is on your personal phone.  To restate:  You could be charged and added to a state’s sex offender registry for having sexually based pictures of yourself or others on your phone, that are not of legal age.
  • Sexting is detrimental to your child’s physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological health. Teenagers have committed suicide over sexting images.


  • 41% of teens say that storing notes on a cell phone to access during a test is a serious cheating offense, while 23% don’t think it’s cheating at all.
  • 45% of teens say that texting friends about answers during tests is a serious cheating offense, while 20% say it’s not cheating at all.
  • 76% of parents say that cell phone cheating happens at their teens’ schools, but only 3% believe their own teen has ever used a cell phone to cheat.
  • Nearly two-thirds of students with cell phones use them during school, regardless of school policies against it.
  • Teens with cell phones send 440 text messages a week and 110 a week while in the classroom.

Reference: The Benenson Strategy Group

“Giving my 2 daughters (now in high school) a smartphone was the worse parenting decision we have ever made. One of my daughters is seeing a counselor weekly for social media anxiety. My youngest will get a basic phone now and a smartphone in college.”

Social Media Solutions

At this point, you have three options in front of you.

Option 1: Take a break. Take a Social Media Vacation!

DETOX: take a break from social media entertainment. This option is easiest for parents and teens get to spend more time developing real life skills and connecting with family.

  • Eliminate all social media for one month or more
  • Get a basic phone or take data off smartphones
  • Use text and email instead of data for connecting with friends
  • Have replacement activities ready or a small family trip planned to break the routine before starting detox
  • Have a daily plan for after school time
  • Plan in-person social activities on a regular basis
  • First few weeks are the hardest, but this option is the easiest to manage

WARNING! When you take social media away your kids will talk to you more, hang around you and want you to take them to see their friends or have their friends over more! So you may have to stock the fridge, get a used ping pong table for the garage, and put your social media down for awhile too!

Option 2: Part-time Social Media User

Teen has social media but only part-time. Access is limited to laptops, at home or parents phone. Benefit of still being connected to friends but with less overuse

  • Change access to non mobile screen or to parent’s phone
  • Limit time to one hour a day or less
  • Limit their followers to a reasonable number, 842 is too many!
  • Clean up apps and reduce number of apps allowed
  • Take a few days off of social media each week (Tuesday and Thursday are social media days)

Option 3: Full-time Social Media User

Your teen has full access but has accountability to you for all activity. You can’t help them learn digital citizenship if you don’t know what they are doing.

  • Allow only as many apps as you can follow
  • Set time limits i.e. curfew and limited days per week
  • Check phone at lest once a week, check vault apps
  • Check their followers and delete ones you don’t know
  • Monitor search history in the browser app
  • Know all passwords
  • Keep all screens out of bedrooms
  • Talk about what they are doing and posting

The first thing we recommend when cracking down on social media is to reset your home and habits. This means making changes that will help replace their obsession, increase healthier family attachment activities, and increase their social skills. Try some of the following ideas to get started. (More tips are offered at our workshops.)

  1. Close your laptop when your kids come home from school.
  2. Reduce the use of your phone in the car when you have the kids.
  3. Planning is key; schedule friends to come over ahead of time instead of waiting till boredom hits.
  4. Think of ways to get your kids and teens outside and moving every day!
  5. Schedule regular “no phone” Friday night Fun Nights: 4-6 teens over to cook and play board games.
  6. Help your child have more than one social group to spread out his/her social circles and not depend heavily on one group.
  7. Keep music on at all times in your home and mix up the playlist. This helps with constant need for stimulation and brings families together.
  8. Put a family photo on their bedside table to remind them how much they belong to your family.
  9. Do your dinner meal prep the night before or in the morning so you can be present when they get home from school. Transition times are the hardest when working through addiction.
  10. Be purposeful about family traditions.
  11. Spend more time talking about current events, their dreams and their life.

After you’ve reset your habits, you’ll be looking for things to do, and so will your kids. Try some of the following ideas for alternative activities for your family.

  1. Keep a family puzzle out in den at all times.
  2. Plan to have friends over after school when possible.
  3. Go watch a local high school basketball or football game.
  4. Watch a Netflix series together once a week and plan it like a date night.
  5. Get bikes for the whole family.
  6. Have a family reading night in the den with blankets/popcorn.
  7. Camp in the backyard if you don’t have time to go out of town.
  8. Set up a workbench in the garage.
  9. Let them have time completely alone once a day.
  10. Set up a garage gym with rings and a climbing rope.
  11. Put them in charge of cooking one meal a week with you.
  12. Get an inexpensive fire pit for the backyard, the best teen-talking-tool out there! (don’t forget s’mores)

For more alternative activities, click here.

Additional Resources