Cyberbullying
Social Media
Virtual Private Network
Sexting
Your Teen's Digital Brand
Parental Controls for Cell Phones
Parental Controls at the Router Level

Middle School Parent: What you Need to Know About Social Media

What you need to know as the parent of a middle schooler.

Key Learning:

  1. When middle school students spend too much time on social media, it impacts sleep, interpersonal interaction, focus, learning, and schoolwork
  2. Protect and prioritize family time, focus, and sleep for your child: middle schoolers need 10 hours of sleep
  3. Keep up with the latest apps on Common Sense Media.
  4. Knowing your child’s passwords isn’t as important as helping them understand how to behave online and avoiding dangerous situations
  5. Remind your child that anything they post online should be looked at as “permanent” – even if content is deleted, someone might have taken a screenshot
  6. Help your child understand and enforce the age requirements for social media apps
  7. Encourage and model device-free time
  8. Use reality shows and media to spark discussions about drama, its impact, and how to avoid it
  9. Help your child with the privacy settings of their online apps

The appeal of social media for tweens and teens is undeniable. It helps to connect them to their friends, allows them to showcase their talents and work, but can also negatively impact their mental health. Let's open the conversation with our littles, middles, and big kiddos!

Questions & Answers provided by Common Sense Media

How do I keep up with the latest social apps and sites teens are using?

  • Take a little time to do your research. Our reviews and parenting advice can be an excellent starting point.
  • Most importantly, talk — and listen — to your kids. Even if you can’t stay on top of every new app, concentrate your efforts on keeping the lines of communication open so kids will come to you if a problem arises.
  • Make sure kids know it’s OK to make mistakes and that they don’t need to hide these from you — that you can actually help them through tough spots.
  • Have your kid use your app store account or an account linked to your email, so you’ll be notified when an app is downloaded. Consider making a rule, at least until they’re older, that they can’t download an app or sign up for an online account without asking you first.
  • Ask which apps and sites are popular with your teen’s friends. Kids may open up more when they’re talking about someone else.
  • Share what you’re using. Show them your Facebook page, favorite videos, or a game you’re obsessed with. They may be inspired to reciprocate.

How do I help my child avoid digital drama?

  • Help set boundaries. Understand that these days relationships often are played out both online and offline. Kids need their family’s guidance in establishing appropriate boundaries for healthy relationships.
  • Take a time-out. With constant access to texting and posting online, kids don’t get a break from the back and forth that can keep digital drama going. Have some device-free time to give kids a chance to cool off.
  • Let them know you’re always there for them. Remind your kids often that you’re always available to talk. While you’re at it, remind them about the school counselor, a favorite teacher, a coach, or even a friend’s parent. Knowing that they have a trusted adult to talk to may encourage teens to open up more.

  • Use media to talk about drama. Reality TV shows often present extreme behavior as entertainment. Discuss why these shows are less likely to depict positive conflict resolution. Also talk about how these shows can encourage negative stereotypes about female friendships.

Should I demand my kid's passwords to his or her social websites and apps?

Here’s a little secret: Having your kid’s passwords does nothing to make your kid safer online. Every kid knows it’s a cinch to change passwords, create a new account you don’t know about, or simply block you from ever seeing anything he or she posts. Instead, work together to make sure your kids develop their own sense of responsibility, and try not to have a parent-versus-child dynamic. Have regular check-ins, review their privacy settings, see who their online friends are, and take an interest in their online activities.

What are the age restrictions for some of the most common apps?

  • Facebook Minimum Age: 13
  • Instagram Minimum Age: 13
  • Snapchat Minimum Age: 13
  • Twitter Minimum Age: 13
  • YouTube Minimum Age (create and post videos): 13
  • YouTube Kids: 12 and under
  • Pinterest Minimum Age: 13
  • Tumblr: Minimum Age: 13
  • Skype: Minimum Age: 13
  • What’s App Mimimum Age: 16
  • Kik Minimum Age: 13
  • Tik Tok Minimum Age: 13
  • Group Me Minimum Age: 13
  • Houseparty Minimum Age: 13
  • Discord Minimum Age: 13
  • Live.me Minimum Age: 18
  • YouNow Minimum Age: 13

What are some basic social media rules for middle schoolers?

The reality is that most kids start developing online relationships around the age of 8, usually through virtual worlds such as Club Penguin. By age 10, they’ve progressed to multiplayer games and sharing their digital creations and homemade videos on sites such as YouTube. By age 13, millions of kids have created accounts on social-networking sites such as Facebook. Here are the essential safety and responsibility guidelines for middle schoolers:

  • Follow the rules. Many social sites have an age minimum of 13 for both legal and safety/privacy reasons. Encourage kids to stick with age-appropriate sites.
  • Tell your kids to think before they post. Remind them that everything can be seen by a vast, invisible audience (otherwise known as friends-of-friends-of-friends). Each family will have different rules, but, for middle school kids, it’s a good idea for parents to have access to what their kids are doing online, at least at first, to be sure that what’s being posted is appropriate. Parents can help keep kids from doing something they’ll regret later.
  • Make sure kids set their privacy settings. Privacy settings aren’t foolproof, but they can be helpful. Take the time to learn about default settings and how to change privacy settings on your kids’ favorite sites, and teach your kids how to control their privacy.
  • Kindness counts. Lots of sites have anonymous applications such as “bathroom walls” or “honesty boxes” that allow users to tell their friends what they think of them. Rule of thumb: If your kids wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, they shouldn’t post it.
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