Should I Let My Tween Daughter Use Social Media?

Living during a global pandemic is no joke. And the isolation most of us are experiencing is even tougher for tween girls, who take their blossoming social lives very seriously. So it’s no surprise if you’re considering TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat sooner than you’d expected, in order to foster the kind of connection and support kids can only get from friends. It’s a big decision — and one that makes sense for lots of tweens and teens (with appropriate precautions). But there’s a small subset of young girls who are particularly vulnerable to the negative aspects of social media — and if yours is one of them, you should wait.

The big question, of course, is how do you know? These questions aren’t a diagnostic tool, but more of a guide to help you unearth potential markers of emotional vulnerability. If your kid could benefit from having a social media community, by all means, take advantage. But if the answers to these questions lead you down a different path, it’s perfectly OK to wait, find other ways for her to connect, and support her entry into social media with more caution and care.

Does she frequently compare herself to others?

If she talks a lot about what friends look like, what they wear, nice things they own, and the like, and puts herself down in the process, she may not be ready for the constant stream of perfectly curated lives on Instagram, for example.

Has she been bullied in the past?

Online lives are typically extensions of offline lives, so if your daughter has been bullied at school, it’s possible it could happen again through comments on TikTok or disappearing messages on Snapchat.

Does she have a history of victimization?

Girls who are survivors of abuse could be at a heightened risk of online victimization. Girls who have been sexually assaulted or abused may act out through sexualized social media posts, which can make them a target of pedophiles and traffickers on a variety of platforms.

Does she have trouble making and keeping friends?

If the friendship drama is constant in person, using social media means the drama will follow her everywhere her device goes. And if she’s socially awkward, it’ll probably come off that way online, too (though online communication might be less stressful).

Has she been diagnosed with a mental health disorder?

Plenty of kids with anxiety and depression find support online and through social platforms, but for kids with documented struggles, the risks of negative experiences are higher.

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may want to wait. When you do introduce social media, do it slowly, carefully, and with extra protections in place.

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Here are some tips for how to introduce social media cautiously:

Hold off, if you can.
In pre-pandemic times, this advice might have been easier. But maintaining social connections is super important right now — and unfortunately, online is the best way to keep them going.

Take it slow.
Social media that’s less about “likes” — for example, Zoom, FaceTime, and regular texting — are probably OK to start. Social apps centered on social comparison, such as TikTok, can be introduced one at a time after you see how your kid does with them.

Find substitutes.
Nothing will replace having the cool app everyone’s talking about, but finding fun games or quasi-social apps for her to use can help her feel less left out.

Use it together.
If you want to give the OK to Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok, set up the app on your device first and let her use it with you at her side. This isn’t going to work forever but can be a good place to start because you can see what’s happening and discuss whatever comes up. Remember:

Create a social media contract.
However you decide to introduce social media, it’s wise to set rules about when and how she can use it.

Once she starts using social media, make sure to keep checking in about it. Even though you might not be able to track everything she does or sees, you can let her know you’re available for when she has trouble.

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Common Sense
Author: Common Sense

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org and sign up for our newsletter to read more articles like this.

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Should I Let My Tween Use Social Media?

by Common Sense time to read: 4 min