Screen Smart Families: Advice for Kids and Social Media

by Jess Wolstenholm on May 09, 2017

Welcome to the Screen-Smart Families series on JellyTelly Parents. Gen X and Millennial parents are the first to manage a whole new world of media and technology with our kids and many of us feel overwhelmed or completely at a loss on how to approach this large task that we face every moment of every day. We're pulling from the collective wisdom of many of our well-respected JellyTelly bloggers, offering over 100 years of combined parenting experience, largely within our current media-driven culture.

Social media. It's a blessing and a curse. The tool that has reconnected me with my junior high best friend (what a joy!) has also taken me on an emotional roller coaster as I fight comparison and jealousy with every scroll (why haven't I yet learned that comparison is the thief of joy?!). This is the reality of living in a social media driven world - and I'm 40 years old! All of these emotions, this daily struggle... .for an adult. Imagine what social media can do to our kids?!

But the reality is, social media is here to stay and we have to learn to navigate it - for ourselves, but especially for our kids. I'm learning to first, lead by example so my young children grow to respect the boundaries we put in place when they are old enough for smartphones and social media accounts. Social media can enhance their life (like it has mine) when used appropriately and if they have their identity rooted in Christ.

And that realization is my daily reminder to sow seeds of truth and confidence in their hearts now so that when they do open their lives up to others online, they do so through the lens of Jesus, all things for the glory of God and out of a sure identity in Christ.

Then, on that foundation, we can determine the boundaries that our unique family will put into place to guide our children when using social media. I love to seek collective wisdom from moms who are also in the trenches of modern parenting with me. These thoughts from my fellow JellyTelly bloggers have been so helpful as I think towards the future. . .

- "We only consider platforms that will be of benefit to [our kids]. Because our 16-year-old daughter is an aspiring photographer, she gets a lot of inspiration from both Pinterest and Instagram. She is constantly sharing her inspiration with me on both platforms and it propels her to new creative heights. It's really quite amazing to watch." (Carlie Kercheval, Today's Frugal Family™)

- “Instead of having a specific age, we really go by circumstances and maturity level. Our 17 yr old is now so mature and I pretty much don't even check his devices anymore because he uses it to bring God glory (and with filters on everything). I get reports each week that show what he is looking at. He is ready to be an adult! None of our boys are too obsessed with social media but it is an on-going conversation for sure. All of these decisions require parental involvement and lot of communication most of all. It's not a one-size-fits-all.” (Monica Swanson, The Grom Mom)

- "Recently, my daughter picked up the cell phone of one of her grandparents and found Snapchat on it. That grandparent didn't even know the app was on the phone - it was probably downloaded by another cousin. My daughter only knows about the filters because who hasn't seen one of those silly dog faces on a friend?! I realized that I should have had a conversation with my daughter beforehand. She should know which apps I use and don't use. She should know that whatever-goes-online-stays-online-FOREVER. Just as we have conversations about how to deal with strangers or bullies, we need to have conversations about screens. You can't go anywhere without a kid on a device - and even if my kid doesn't have one, they are going to be looking over the shoulder of another kid. Will they have the understanding, the self-control and the wherewithal to look away?" (Amanda White, Oh Amanda)

- "I don't know when I'll allow social media. I'd like to say not until high school, but I don't know what middle school will bring. I won't let my kids have accounts before the "legal age" on each platform. And my intention is to insist they give me passwords so I can monitor things. I need to be able to monitor what's happening on each one. So if a platform supposedly deletes messages automatically it will be off-limits." (Mary Carver, Giving Up On Perfect)

Making Your Own Screen-Smart Family Plan:

While those are just 5 different perspectives from different families, we love those responses because of the guiding principles they can provide for you and your family as you think about allowing your kids to use various social media platforms. Here are some key questions to ask as you make your own Screen-Smart Family Plan:

  1. What social media platforms are we open to considering? Which ones are off limits?
  2. What does recent research say about the latest platforms?
  3. At what age do we need to begin having conversations about social media? At what age will we allow our kids to start using it?
  4. How could using social media help our children? How could it hurt them?
  5. What boundaries will we put in place for using social media? Will they have privacy or will we (parents) have access to their accounts?
  6. What security measures will we use to protect our children online and on social media?


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