Developmental Stages of Access to Social Media Grades 9-10, Part III

In There's a Stranger in My House by Dr James Wellborn

This column continues the series about setting limits on your kid’s access to and use of social media and the internet.  The topic for this column is video games and social media accounts.  It is the third part of the expectations and recommendations for kids in grades 9 and 10.  (If strategies or information have been covered in previous columns from earlier ages, you will be referred back to those columns for specific details.)

Video Games.  By this age, your kid has been playing video games for years.  Ideally, you are limited to occasional corrective interventions (e.g., “Son, we’ve talked about you using that kind of language.”).  They should be able to give you the company line regarding fair play, cooperation, integrity of their character’s actions in the game, encouragement, lack of arbitrary or random aggression and being a good “loser.”  They should also be likely to violate all of these expectations on a regular basis.  The video game playing culture (specifically shooter and some action adventure role playing games) actively and aggressively promotes, encourages and defines itself by aggression, profanity, leadership by bullying, random and arbitrary violence, excess, extreme risk taking and taking defeat/death very poorly.

When they cross the lines of propriety (that is, what YOU define as proper), it is time to have a detailed talk about character and the kind of person you expect them to be, even when playing.  Then put them on probation for 3 days with Extreme Monitoring.  If they correct their behavior, give them relatively free rein again with Occasional Monitoring (i.e., every now and again).  (Allow them to play value neutral games (e.g., sports, construction/strategy, vehicle operation and exercise/skills development, etc. throughout unless they have the same behavior in those games.)  Every time you catch them slipping up, add another 3 days of grounding (e.g., 3 days, 6 days, 9 days, etc.).  If you reach 12 days in 3 months you have discovered your kid has a problem.  Here’s what to do.  Require them to play the video game only in your presence while you monitor their behavior toward others and when frustrated.   But, require them to play it every day for at least an hour for 2 weeks with you supervising.  They can’t play unsupervised until they go for 2 weeks without a violation of your expectations for appropriate behavior.  This will provide an intensive course in self-control, alternatives to profanity when frustrated and cooperative and supportive teamwork and leadership.

If your kid demonstrates any of these undesirable behaviors in the real world, ground them from all video game play until they demonstrate appropriate, non-violent and non-aggressive behavior in their real life.  Then start again with the plan suggested in the previous paragraph.

Social Media Accounts.  For the majority of teens, their social media account has taken over a central role in signaling and reading the signs of their social world.  Everything gets posted to their social media page.  Familiarity and the drift that comes from the subtle influence of social norms will make them pay less and less attention to the risks and complications of having their life online.  As it was in the beginning and shall be forever and ever (amen), you should be a friend on every account.  You should have the password to every account (though don’t enter the account except when you are in their presence).  Having their passwords makes a point.  This is a privilege that is available at your discretion.  When they are paying for everything in their lives, they can decide whether to give you their password or not.  (And, paying for their online access still doesn’t make it theirs since you are saving them the trouble of paying for all the rest of their expenses.)  So, you should have already been monitoring and correcting their behavior from earlier developmental periods.  When they violate your expectations at this age, just make them correct it (e.g., remove it, delete it, clean it up, etc.).

Repeated infractions?  Have a long talk after the third time you have had to talk to them about the content and language on their account.  See what they have to say.  Require them to justify their actions in terms of personal expression versus the impression given and risks of information on the page impacting something important (e.g., employment, college applications, etc.).  Require them to analyze themselves using the information on their social media page.  Then, YOU analyze them given what is on the page.  If y’all can find a solution that addresses both the personal and impression management (e.g., questionable info only on the private settings) then problem solved.  If not, social media site scrubbing will be required.

Blogs, chat rooms and other online diaries.  Still No Access.  Too much potential trouble for no appreciable value.


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