5 tips on navigating a social-media contract with your girl

by Clare Reynders, MEDIAGIRLS Editorial Volunteer

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Uncle Ben tells superhero Spiderman. This is just as true when it comes to using social media, an incredibly powerful tool that can be used for good or evil (or, of course, in between). That’s why it’s essential to talk to our kids about the responsibility that comes with it, ideally before they get their first Instagram or Snapchat account but it’s never too late!


1. Make it clear that this is not a punishment. Instead, it’s an opportunity to get on the same page about social media and expectations so there are no huge surprises. Neither of you should think of the discussion as you imposing rules on her (although as the parent, you do get to select some rules that are set in stone). But make it clear you want to hear from her what she thinks are safe and healthy rules for teen girls.


2. Starting with our template will make it easier. Based on what we’ve heard from many parents and girls, this template is a great baseline social-media contract. It’s derived from talking to tween and teen girls in our workshops. Have a look at it with your daughter, and discuss why each aspect is important. Keep it brief and to the point or you’ll quickly lose her attention. Together, you can make choices to add or subtract different stipulations. What would she like to add?


3. Get ready to adjust your own behavior. If one of your rules is that there is no social media posting during family time, that goes for you too (no saying, “I just need two more minutes” or “I just have to text my staff member a reminder” at the dinner table). If the rule is, “no phone in her bedroom during sleep hours,” make sure you’re doing exactly the same. If teen girls smell a hint of hypocrisy, your cred goes right out the window.


4. Take a break before signing. Once you’ve both revised the contract, print up a new version for you and her, and suggest you each think about it for a couple of days. After you’ve both had the chance to reflect, make any additional edits together before signing. Be sure to discuss (and stick to!) repercussions for breaching the contract (phone or internet taken away for a week, two weeks, etc.) beforehand as well so there aren’t any “no fair!” comments.


5. Understand this is a starter conversation. Creating a contract together presents a good opportunity to discuss social media’s place in our lives. Kids growing up with social media is a new concept that parents are still getting used to, and being on the same page as your child is crucial. Continue to discuss issues that may come up. How does being online make her feel? What’s her favorite part about being online and what are some positive aspects of social media? Conversely, what are some not-great aspects of the online community? Hearing her perspective without judging her on these issues build trust and respect. Plus, simply asking questions like these will make her more aware and critical of the online environments she spends time in.

Clare Reynders is a rising senior at Vassar College majoring in Media Studies with a minor in Women’s studies. She loves singing in her a cappella group, reading books, and, of course, empowering young women.


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