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#AskAlyson: Navigating Social Media with Tweens

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Dear Alyson,

How do we navigate social media with tweens? They are just beginning to use some social media sites. I have a joint data plan with my 10 and 11 year olds, who have their own iPads (not phones). They have told me about inappropriate photos, texts and YouTube content while browsing at school with friends who have phones. Any Suggestions?



Dear Nicole,

I am happy to hear that your kids have told you about the inappropriate material they have seen on other kids’ devices.   That is a testament to the strength and trust in the relationship you have built with your children.


Kids can have a morbid fascination with mature content or feel pressure to watch what their friends are watching even if it is disturbing to them. Viewing inappropriate content creates emotional tension for our children because they know it’s wrong, but they kinda like it too. They want to be loyal to friends but they also want to follow their parent’s rules. The whole situation puts them in terrible dilemma of “damned if you do – damned if you don’t.”


Believe it or not, children are relieved when you get them out of this pickle by asserting your parental responsibilities of setting appropriate limits and boundaries.  If you are too strict however, they will feel you are being unreasonable and will sneak around the rules you’ve set. If you have no limits because you are unaware of how technology works, your child will likely feel you don’t care about them because you aren’t involved in their lives, or they’ll think you are dense because you have no idea what is going on right under your nose.


So, our challenge as parents is to find that sweet spot of helping our children feel both safe and supervised, while allowing them the freedom to socialize with their peers without being spied on. And who the hell really knows where that spot is? No one! So we have to share our confusion and ignorance with our children and let them know we are trying to figure this out as parents and we would appreciate their help.


A great place to start is to spend time the site, together. Yes, together. This way, your child sees you are also bound by rules set by authority figures too. You are not just making up family rules up for no reason. The experts on the matter are telling you what to do to keep your kids safe online.


For example, if you child wants permission to use Facebook, read together about the age of consent for having a personal profile. Go to the parenting area and read together about what FB wants parents to do so their children have a good on line experience. Read what they recommend for security settings.


Technology is here to stay, so parents need to know how to manage kids around it. You don’t have to know everything today. You don’t need to know every app. But you do need to know the principals of democratic parenting and how to educate the family and guide the child on matters regarding the current online platforms so you can establish appropriate family rules about online safety.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

2 Responses to “#AskAlyson: Navigating Social Media with Tweens”

  1. Christy den Haan-Veltman

    Hi Alyson,

    As always your blog posts are informative and inspiring. I wanted to share another resource started by a Mom in Waterloo, ON, which helps identify digital privacy and social risks in apps. Like you, she also does presentations to parents. That’s how I heard about

    • Alyson Schafer

      Thanks for sharing additional resources for parents Christy! Much appreciated. Keep posting!


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