So your daughter has a cell phone, maybe a laptop, an iPad, an xBox, or any number of gadgets to keep her tethered...er, connected to her friends at all hours of the day or night. The ease of having a friend a click away has changed the way teenagers communicate, and there are ups and downs to this constant contact.
- Texting can be a great tool for parents to keep up with their tween's daily life.
- Being able to reach a friend when you need one is a great way for girls to feel supported.
- Girls process by talking through challenges with friends, and now have many ways to connect with their peers to support this.
Potential Downside and What You Can Do:
- It can be difficult for tweens to practice balance with texting and social networking. Parents can enforce limits with electronics and also model these limits by practicing what they preach. Take the onus off your daughter to set her own limits and, even though she'll hate the rules, you'll give her a good way to practice limit-setting with her peers.
- Texting and screens right before bed can impede sleep. Using the limit-setting, make sure your tween has an hour of screen-free time before bed. Sounds impossible? Start with 20 minutes and build up from there. This goes for parents too!
- While connecting with friends and processing social interactions can be healthy for tweens, the constant contact has the potential to exacerbate feelings of anxiety, FOMO (fear of missing out), and can lead to harmful comparisons between tweens and their peers. Parents can help here by paying attention to your daughter's behavior in general and noticing any red flags like withdrawal, significant change in appetite, or a persistent worry or sadness. Talk with your tween about her social media usage and communicate the idea that our online lives are a reflection of a small sliver of ourselves, and that we "curate" an online persona that is only a partial truth. Help her understand how she (and her peers) are much more than what is seen on Instagram. Encourage her to connect with friends regularly IRL (in real life). Help her manage anxiety by taking regular breaks from electronics and finding other activities that sate her need for connection.
For a great article on more of the challenges of managing your tween's social networking, visit Tween Parent.