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Last week, we published a post on how parents can help their teenagers navigate social media. As a follow-up to that post, we hosted a webinar on Sunday, Feb 11, 2024, to take the discussion a little bit further.

To help parents navigate this complex landscape of teenagers and social media, we sat down with Ronkeposh, Director of Leposh Schools, for expert advice on guiding teenagers through their social media journey. Below are excerpts from our interview with Ronkeposh.

Q1. Should teenagers be on social media?

There are different reasons why children are online. Just because you’re thirteen does not mean you should automatically be online. Being online is not something that strictly has to do with age; it has to do with the emotional and mental maturity of a child. A child can be thirteen and have the mind of an eight-year-old, and really shouldn’t be online. However, some children are monetizing their skills online. At the end of the day, you want to figure out what you want your child to do online. Is your child strictly socializing and just consuming social media content, or is there more to it that your child is doing online? Figure that out as a parent. Also, figure out if they’re emotionally and mentally ready for that space – because the social media environment can be likened to a jungle. Is your child ready to handle everything that comes with it? In essence, many factors will help you decide if your teenager should be online or not.

Q2. Should parents bring in their own childhood experiences when deciding if their teenagers should be on social media?

It’s human nature to see the world from our perspective and experience. However, parents should be aware that their time is quite different now. Years ago, lots of today’s parents didn’t have access to phones like their kids do now. For example, back then, parents weren’t doing assignments on their phones like lots of kids love doing nowadays. So we have to understand that things are quite different now. However, some parents are still stuck in their old ways. What parents need to understand is how to manage their kids online because times have definitely changed.

Q3. So, how do parents manage their kids online without being overbearing?

When it comes to managing kids online, it doesn’t start with the phone; it starts deeper and even before the phone. For instance, I have a teenager who will be approaching eighteen soon, and I have access to most of her social media accounts. Meanwhile, she also has access to mine. Trust is at the heart of this relationship between me and my child. Trust needs to be built even before you buy the phone. Parents sneak around their kids in order to ‘catch’ their child. This attitude only goes to show a lack of trust between parents and kids. Unfortunately, this lack of trust will impact other areas that are even more important than social media. So, parents need to do the work in the early days – way before social media comes into play. They need to build relationships with their children and spend quality time with them.

Q4. Do you think that trust should be a two-way thing? For example, we have parents who expect to know everything about their children while wanting privacy for themselves.

Well, in theory, that should be the case. But let’s not pretend like some parents are not doing some immoral stuff they would not want their kids to know about. While I cannot speak for other parents, in my case, I know I don’t engage in those types of behaviours, which is why my daughter has full access to my devices. In reality, if you’ve raised your child well as a parent, and trust him/her to a large extent, then it’s not a big deal if your kids have access to your devices. However, if you’ve got something to hide that a child should not see, then you’re better off keeping your devices away from the reach of your kids. However, just be aware that these kids will eventually find whatever it is that you’re hiding.

Q5. What is the downside of teenagers becoming digital creators and making lots of money via this avenue, is it not a distraction from their educational pursuits?

Again, this all boils down to the values with which you’ve raised your kids. This is a conversation parents need to have with their children even before their foray into content creation on social media. For example, my daughter has made money through her various forays in the digital space – writing books, DJing and lots more. However, I raised her with the value of not putting money at the forefront of everything that she did. So, I set a minimum standard of educational attainment for her from the start before she could start chasing after whatever she chose to do online. In other words, we get to read about clashes between parents and their children because there was never a discussion about values before the money started coming in.

social media and teenagers

Q6. Is it possible that parents could build trust and create good values for their kids even before their foray into the digital space and these kids still end up deviating?

Of course, it is possible. You could do everything right as a parent and everything still goes south when they come into contact with inappropriate content online. But now, the question is, what do you do when things go south? how do you respond when someone is grooming them online? The secret is being a safe space for your kids to come back to even if they engage in immoral activities online. Being that parent to whom they can talk about their mistakes. If you create this safe space, together with your kids, you can weather the storm when things don’t turn out the way you planned.

Q7. What do you do when you have kids that push back on your values?

If you have a child who is pushing back, don’t buy the device, end of the story. As parents, we did survive without these devices, so, that kid who is pushing back can as well survive without these devices. If you have already bought the device already and your child is not managing it well, take it away from them.

Q8. Do you think teenagers should have screen time and what do you think is the ideal screen time for teens?

 Many scientific researchers talk about this. One study I saw recently said children under the age of five should not have more than an hour of screen time a day. Honestly, I think children can do without screens. As long as you have other things to engage that child, they’ll be fine. If you’re intentional, you will find other fun things to engage your child with. But the typical parent can’t be bothered. They find devices as an easier route to engage their children. Parents now use phones to babysit their children. That’s not ideal. However, if your kids are using their devices for productive activities like coding, creating content, educational research, etc, they can have screen time that is above the typical average.

Final Thoughts

Navigating teenagers on social media in today’s digital age requires a collaborative effort between parents, educators, and teenagers themselves. By fostering open communication, setting boundaries, and promoting digital literacy, we can help teenagers harness the benefits of social media while mitigating its risks. Special thanks to Ronkeposh for sharing her valuable insights and expertise.

About the Experts

Gloria Elendu is the host of this interview and a prominent figure in educational technology.

Ronkeposh is the Director of Leposh Schools, with extensive experience in education and a passion for empowering teenagers to thrive in the digital era.

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