How parents approach social media for different children in the same family

How parents approach social media for different children in the same family
  • PublishedMay 23, 2024

Deciding when and how children should access social media is a challenge for parents and there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all solution — even when it comes to kids in the same family.

Following the South Australian government’s proposal to ban social media access for children under 14, two parents share how they’re managing when their kids have very different interests and needs.

We have withheld their surnames for privacy.

‘Parents need help’

Valerie, who is raising two children aged 13 and eight with her husband, describes the South Australian government’s proposal to ban social media access for children under 14 as “a great idea” in theory, but questions how practical it would be.

“I’d absolutely love it if it worked and would 100 per cent support it but I think what adults, government, [and] people in power don’t understand is that our children are so smart,” she says.

“They were raised with IT, and if you have a child that’s addicted to a video game or a social media app, they will find a way to get into a device.”

Valerie believes the idea of a total ban does not take into account the different developmental and behavioural issues of individual kids, and says “our two children’s needs are entirely different”. 

“One child struggles to manage their own screen time, one does not. One suffers major effects from excessive screen time; the other does not.”

Valerie believes parents need support to understand how social media and games are affecting their children, to help them make informed decisions that suit their individual circumstances.

“We’ve taken my child’s favourite things away [all devices], and we literally do not know another soul that has done that,” she says.

“It’s really hard to raise a child in a world where you’ve made this decision and you just don’t have anyone that is doing the same thing.

“As more than one expert has said, social media and digital technology isn’t going anywhere, we have to learn to live with it — and healthily. But parents need help.”

‘Am I doing the wrong thing?’

Simone is a Sydney-based parent of two teenagers, aged 17 and 14.

She describes her eldest child as “an academic and has zero interest in social media”, which has made the issue of navigating social media access “easy”.

“But I’ve been very strong and passionate when it comes to our 14-year-old accessing social media,” she says.

“It’s always been a hard no … but they understand why it’s no. We do talk about it often.”

Simone says when she’s out with her youngest child’s friends, she observes them taking selfies to post on social media. 

“My 14-year-old sits there, staring into space or [saying] ‘Guys, let’s play a game’, so it breaks my heart to see that and think, ‘Am I doing the wrong thing?’

“But in my heart of hearts, [I think] absolutely not. They’re not emotionally equipped to cope with social media, in my opinion.

“I’m very proud to say my 14-year-old is still a kid, and a self-proclaimed kid, like she does ‘kid things’. [Social media] forces them to grow up too soon and it’s a huge concern for me.”

Simone says she’s “not getting any pushback” from her youngest child yet, and she wonders whether this will change in the next six to 12 months.

“Honestly, if I can hold off even longer than 16, that would be amazing. But we’ll see how it goes.”


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