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Episode 38

How to disciple
your children
with social media

July 11, 2022

[Kyle]: Social media. Gahh! It's scary and crazy and our kids want it, and what do we do about it? In today's episode, we're going to tackle those topics and give you some real practical steps on how to approach this with your kids.


[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 38 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.

[Sara]: And I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: And today we're going to try to talk about social media and how to help navigate the conversation with you and your kids about this subject, because it is such a big topic between parents and kids, especially-- I mean, kids all the way down to, you know, third grade it's a pretty big topic of wanting social media and parents trying to hold off that desire to get it. Want to really before we jump into that, to ask you, you know, to definitely go on to the podcast, wherever you're listening to this, we've already got several really good five-star reviews. Love to see those, they're so encouraging. To get your feedback, we get to hear comments occasionally of people how this podcast is helping you and helping expand and give you tools, expanding your knowledge of what it is like to be a parent, but also your tools and how to parent a little differently and so, we'd love to hear back from you on that and definitely share this if you know of other families, that are having struggles with social media and a lot of conflict around that.

[Kyle]: So, I thought today when I wrote this, I just really wanted to have a conversation with you, Sara, about how-- Not like-- We're not experts on social media, right?

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: So, you know, we're kind of jumping in to this. We help a lot of kids and families with this, but ourselves personally with our own kids, they're just now kind of moving into that stage, right? So, we always like to try to educate ourselves first on it, but then also try to have-- To me it's not about doing it right or wrong with social media, it's not about saying “this is the best way” or “this is a good way” or “the bad way”, it's more about, how do I co-create this relationship with social media with my kid? You know? It's just another-- Going back to previous podcasts, Sara, we've talked about conflict is an opportunity. So, I want to approach social media as just a conflict and it's an opportunity to either push us further away from each other, where we miss understand each other more or we come closer together and we can ask you to use this topic with our kid, to go deeper in our relationship with our child.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s -- We hear it all the time, it is a great source of conflict in families and there's a lot of things to be concerned about and there's a lot of great things about social media and so, it's a little hard to always imagine how do you do this with your child. Because there's a lot of things, there's wonderful apps that give you a lot of control, you know? There's a lot of things out there. I see a lot of things as a parent coming at me telling me how to control social media for my child.

[Sara]: But you know, if you've been listening to us for a while, we generally our approach is not going to be “I’m going to go control this for my child”. Now, there's some-- We're definitely going to have boundaries, we're definitely gonna have all of that, but it's how do we create this together, you know, you always-- We say-- We use co-create a lot.

[Sara]: And so, how do we invite them in? Because I want to invite them in, I don't want to just lay down some rules on top of their use. I want to bring them in because I want their buy-in, I want our kids to understand. I believe fully that my children can sit and know the benefits of it and the downside of it. There are pitfalls to social media for anybody and everybody, but even though there is some dangers for children, teenagers.

[Kyle]: Big dangers.

[Sara]: Big dangers, yeah, very, very much and my children can understand those and I believe in that and so, I believe in having the conversation and so, you know, we're just-- Let's just discuss “how do we have this conversation?”, because I know my children can understand it. So, how can we bring them on board so it's not something I’m forcing upon them, but something we're doing together? They have buy-in into it, they can think about, because they're going to go off in the world, right?

[Sara]: So, I want to take this as an opportunity to help them build skills, think about how to navigate, what's this relationship going to look like. Because they're going to go out in the world, they're going to be doing it on their own. So, this is my opportunity to do that with them, hopefully preparing them for the day that I have no say in it.

[Kyle]: Yeah, you just-- I love how you describe that, Sara. I’m thinking the-- What I start thinking about is the goal. So, if we set a goal for this podcast or even for you and I when it comes to talking to our kids, is-- My ultimate goal it isn't “have social media or not”, you know? “Be on that app or not app”, right? It is to help understand what is a healthy relationship with social media look like, right? And so, one, we have to have a vision of that, you know? Do we have a healthy relationship with social media? You know, what is that? How do we keep each other accountable to making sure it's playing a more positive part of my life than a negative? Right? It's definitely always going to have both and I want to be open-handed about that with my kid. You know, many of us as parents, we're really able to see the negative and we'll feel like we need to really emphasize that to the kid, without understanding there's tons of positives and that's why we're on it, you know? Somebody who says parents are audits--

[Sara]: Well, and that's what they're-- Right? That's what they're coming and arguing for.

[Sara]: All their friends are connecting on there, all this stuff is happening and they're missing out on it and those are the positives and I don't-- I agree, I can see that, I can see their side and go “okay, it's not necessary that we just want to say ‘no’”. I mean, I guess for some families they might want to just say “no”.

[Sara]: But it's there, it's not going anywhere, it's growing in our society. So, all right, let's look at that, how do we face that?

[Kyle]: Well, and so, on that, then I’m thinking in order to help, that's the goal, to create a healthy relationship with it. I’ve got to get away from like “how am I gonna do this to them? How am I going to do it for them?”, right? I’ve got to go back to the only way to create a healthy relationship with anything we're talking about with our kids. It could be with food, it could be-- But in this case social media is “how do I do it with them?”, okay? So, I want to emphasize this is not something I ever want a kid to do on their own.

[Kyle]: So, Sara and I, you and I would never advocate for like “oh, just give it to your kid and see, that's--”

[Sara]: Good luck.

[Kyle]: Yeah, I just hope-- I think-- “I mean, your kid's smart enough, I think they'll get it”, right?

[Kyle]: We are very conscious and very aware that there are so many scary things with it, so many detrimental and I think the younger you go, the more detrimental they are going to be, right? I mean, their brain development and their social-emotional development and all those kind of things, right? The sense of FOMO, the sense of like, needing to be like other people. Also, so gross and so toxic, right?

[Sara]: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s-- We know bullying exists on there.

[Kyle]: Oh, so much, yes.

[Sara]: We know the more people spend on social media, that statistically I think they have higher rates of depression, anxiety, low self-concept. So, I mean, we're talking some real significant things here that we want our children to understand and watch for that in themselves.

[Kyle]: Well, especially is that you know they're forming their identity and so, that's actually why I think doing it with them is so pivotal because if I don't do it with them, then I think I give even more power and I send the message “you are eventually just going to need to do this on your own”. So, whether I’m keeping them from them and think I’m controlling it until this age where they're finally gonna have access to it anyway and I can't stop it, that's going to cause a lot of power struggles and it's going to send the message that “well, I’m gonna hold on and grip this as long as I can, but eventually we both know you're going to get access to it”, you know?

[Kyle]: And so, the earlier I can say like “my goal isn't to keep you from it, my goal isn't to stop you having it, my goal is to do it with you” and that's where I like the word discipleship. This is where “I’m going to disciple you on how to do this”, but of course, going back to first I’ve got to know how am I doing it.

[Kyle]: So, I would encourage every listener to “what is my relationship?”. You know, what is your relationship with social media? How does it impact you? Are you getting more positive than negatives? And if you're married, have a spouse, love their feedback, you know? Like, I really like it if Sara and I, if you thought I was on social media too much, I would love for you to tell me and I would tell you as well, because it's all modeling to the kids “what kind of role you want this thing to play in your family?”.

[Sara]: Yeah, think about it, seriously think about “what image am I trying to achieve online?”. Because we all have an image we're trying to achieve, right? You know, what is my intent? How am I using it? You see people using it for a lot of political or to push a belief system.

[Sara]: Other people are on there just decorating their house and showing style and you know.

[Kyle]: And having adventures, yeah, yeah.

[Sara]: And so, take that moment to go back and go “what am I putting out there? Why am I choosing those things? How much time in a day am I giving to social media?”. Is it just a business platform to you? You know, think about it, take some time to analyze it, have a conversation with your partner or even a friend. Even if it's better to go to a friend and say “hey, I just want to hash this out with you, what do you see--?”, because your friends are following your feed. They might have some really good insights for you.

[Kyle]: Yes, so good, I love it.

[Sara]: You know, “am I chasing the lights?”, you know? “Am I--? Is there a part of me--?”. I need to be honest about that, because then you can talk and have an honest conversation with your child.

[Kyle]: Well, what you're saying though is, you're doing the inner work, the introspection, the self-awareness that you're actually wanting them to do.

[Sara]: Uh huh, and you need to model it for them, you need to be able to say “you know what? I just love those likes”. Or “I really want it, I’m gonna convince people” or are you getting on there and arguing with people? To what end?

[Sara]: What's happening inside of you? Are you walking away happier? Is this something--? What is it giving and what is it taking? Because it's doing both. So, be honest.

[Kyle]: I like asking the friends feedback, I like asking the kids feedback, you know? “What do you notice, you know, what have you noticed that I try to do?”. Like, so I like you-- What we want our kids to do and that's why I think we need to be disciplined to do it to then as disciple them is, every time I’m about to post, stop and think “what's the goal here? What's the intent?”, you know? and do I want that to be their intent? Right? So, because otherwise how am I gonna co-create that with them if I don't even understand why I’m doing it, you know?

[Kyle]: I remember there was a while there when Facebook was first a thing and it was all kind of new. Oh my gosh, we had these friends like, posting every little like “I’m gonna eat dinner now” and then the next post “here's what I ate for dinner” I was like-- And I know-- I remember there was a time where you gave me the feedback because I’d go to bed, look at the FB and be like “can you believe what this guy just posted?” I’d be like going off and then you'd be like “how is this helping you? Why are you looking at it?” like and then another friend along that same line, said something interesting where I came to him and I was like “I can't believe people are posting this or this or this or this” and he said “yeah, I don't know why they're posting that, Kyle. I think the better question is, why aren't you?”. Like you not posting that stuff is also you're sending a message too.

[Kyle]: And that's actually the only question you have an answer to. You don't have an answer to why they are, but why aren't you? You know? And that's important for you to know, because then there might be good reasons, there also might be some unhealthy reasons, right? Maybe I’m trying to prove I’m not something.

[Sara]: Yeah, “I’m so much better than that, I don't post when I eat for dinner”.

[Kyle]: Yes, that's right and so-- And then I don't want my kids doing that either. So, I hope you're seeing the framework of what we're saying is, yes, there are negatives. Oh my gosh, so many negatives. Yes, there are positives, okay? And a lot of positives, a lot of ways in which we can reach people in different ways than we ever could before. I do love seeing birthday reminders and oh my God, I love getting a lot of happy birthdays! Those are fun too; I always feel great on my birthday when I see all that stuff.

[Sara]: Well, there's tons of-- I’m always struck by-- I have a science one I follow. Ss a kid, you know, as a teenager and [Unintelligible], I didn't have the ability to access that kind of knowledge, that information. So, I think it does offer for the opportunity to see some kind of culture and we can grow so much from the information that is out there too. We can get lost in it, but you can also grow from it.

[Sara]: So, there's lots of ways and connections and obvious ones.

[Kyle]: Yes, so cool.

[Sara]: That I can connect with my friends who live really far away on a real easy basis, even if it's not, you know, she posts in the morning and I see it the next day or something and there's that moment of connection there, where I can have a little comment. Where she's not going to call me every day and be like “hey, I just went shopping with my daughter and--”, you know?

[Sara]: And so, it is a nice way to stay connected with people and obviously, kids are using a lot in school to help each other with studying.

[Kyle]: So many ways, yeah.

[Sara]: And you know, they're seeing “oh, you're doing that. I’m doing my homework” and there's lots of those kinds of positives that--

[Kyle]: Well, if we would have had this back in college, it’d be so great. Like “hey, I’m doing this paper real quick”, you reach out real quick and they give back or get you could get like a little forum where we're all talking about that class and ways in which, you know. So, there's a lot of positive ways and I hope what the listeners are seeing, Sara, is this is kind of what you and I would do with a kid.

[Kyle]: The exact process right now is, we'd start out first with the reflection on “what are they seeing me do with social media? How are they seeing me relate to it?”. Because I can't ask them to do something I’m not first doing, right? But then the next step is “yeah, talk to me about the positive negatives” and I want to be completely--

[Sara]: [Unintelligible] back up, I would be curious after I said “how do you see me?”, I would-- I want to ask “what do you--? How do you want to use it?”

[Kyle]: Yeah, that’s good.

[Sara]: “How do you--?”, you know and that may change, but I would just-- I bet kids already have thoughts about it.

[Kyle]: Yeah, so good, that’s great.

[Sara]: And maybe if they don't, let's spark that. “Well, what do I wanna--? How do I want to put myself out there? What is it going to look like for me?”. Because I want them to have that self-awareness going into it.

[Kyle]: Uh huh, and then that next step, I always like to start with “what are the positives?”, because typically the kid wants to present the positive, because they think it's all positive and if I’m able to do that and just go “yeah, I agree, those are great” and they see that “oh yeah”. I don't feel like I need to balance this out and just go “well, but what about this? What about--?”, you know. They think “oh, we can have a great conversation about all the ways this could be really fun and positive”, right? And then I’ll say “do you think there's any negatives?”, right? And almost every kid I’ve had this kind of conversation with they do see them, they know they're there, they've seen them. They've seen friends get sucked into their phones and be on it and then feel depressed about how they're not pretty enough or you know, doing enough fun things, whatever. So, they've seen that and they'll-- I think you might be surprised at how honest your kids can be about that, if they don't feel like you are already going to do that, you know? If you allowed them to reflect and own it that this isn't just all like free goodness, you know? There is a price to pay when you are on this stuff, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, you want to make sure in the conversation that you're doing a lot of listening, because sometimes I think we come in and go “oh, wait, I need to make sure my kid knows about this danger and they need to know about that danger” and you'll have your moment, but start out doing a whole lot of listening, because kids are far more aware of this stuff than I think we sometimes give them credit for and they're going to be more open to listening to our concerns, if they've had a chance and feel really, really heard.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and you know, a book that I think really describes as well if our listeners are interested, there's a book called “Screen Wise” by Dr. Heitner, H-E-I-T-N-E-R and I really love how she splits up how parents approach this into like, three categories, where either they're hyper controlling and they're just like, you know, they're in charge of it all and the kids constantly like, trying to sneak new ways and I meet with a lot of parents that are just so frustrated, because kids will find so many ways to get it by themselves.

[Sara]: Yeah, there’s and endless-- yeah.

[Kyle]: And like, they're just so stinking smart and there's all these ways they can get on other Wi-Fi's or whatever, you know? And even though the parents think they've clamped everything down, they--

[Sara]: They have all the apps to control things.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, it's like the kid thinks the parent-- Even though the parent typically is on social media, but the kid thinks the parent sees it as bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, and they've got to hyper control it and almost 100% of the time, that's out of fear and it's not invalid fear, there is real fear there about it and they're fearful of what it will do and how it will change their kid, right? And what it's doing to our society, right? But then there's the other parent, who's just kind of laissez-faire and I meet a lot of these parents too, who their kids are super anxious and their kids are depressed and like, there's never been any direction at all about how to-- This to be a positive thing. It's like the kids have just been handed a phone or some other device and the kids just jumped into it and the parent just feels like the kid will figure it out and unfortunately, the kid is going down in a lot of cases, these rabbit holes that are leading to dark places or I mean, I’ve had kids, Sara, who are going to bed at night with their phone like next to them and they don't even want to put it across the room, because they're so afraid they'll miss something on Instagram or on TikTok or Snapchat and maybe a friend--

[Kyle]: I’ve actually had kids, I remember one kid in particular a while back where, you know, they've been-- Had such a snap streak for such a long time, like the streak had been going for hundreds and hundreds of days and they got in trouble and the parent was going to take the phone away and they were gonna-- That was gonna stop the streak and so, she, the kid end up going in locking herself in the bathroom and caused a big conflict, right? And so, like those streaks can be something too. So, there's all these ways in which these conflicts can really blow up, because it begins to almost enslave them and control them, right?

[Kyle]: And so, she's not about the super controlling parent, she's not about the laissez-faire parenting, what she's about is helping raise digital citizens. Ts understanding that this is going to be a part of their life, this is part of our culture and if you aren't going to disciple and help guide them in this, then they're going to be just guided by their peers or their own impulses and all that kind of stuff. So, it's really saying “man, I want to raise kids who are healthy digital citizens” and I just thought that approach was great.

[Kyle]: And so, in that, she talks about when a kid wants to come and get something, like a Facebook account, like an Instagram account, like a TikTok, like a Snapchat. I don't even think TikTok was around when she wrote this book, but anytime a kid wants to get on those things, it's not just a “yes” or “no”, you know? It's not just a “that's bad” or “that's good”, it's doing this conversation, like you said. You know, maybe even I with some clients, Sara, I’ve done it to her have them write it down, you know? Kind of like “write a proposal”, you know? “What is it about-- You go ahead and take some time and really write down all the reasons why you think it'd be great and then all the reasons, the things to be kind of weary of it or kind of like, be a little cautious”, you know? And I thought that was really great, because it gives kids a chance to think about it and really contemplate.

[Sara]: Yeah, and I think, then you also-- Then it doesn't end there, you have regular conversations about it and I do that now with when I am-- If I am on social media, I talk openly about my process with the kids, you know, why I’m doing this or what I think. If somebody posts something and there's some piece where I think “oh, this would be a great opportunity to discuss this with my children”. Then, I do that, I do that now because I hope when they are more active on social media, then they'll also feel this openness to say “hey Mom! Check out this post” or talk to me about their thoughts about posts and different things. Because I want to have that open dialogue and so, it starts with me modeling it with them.

[Kyle]: I think they've even seen us do that with friends. I mean, I have some friends who get way too triggered by things on social media and they'll see me make that call and say “buddy, whoa! Back off on that. Like people are gonna misunderstand what you're saying, you know?” and so, they'll see me even set some boundaries and have some accountability to friends and I want them to have the freedom to do the same thing back to me and the friends want that, they want to know how they're being perceived, you know? So, then I think what's cool is that, after that kind of proposal or that kind of conversation, I love the written down thing because it does give them more time, but then if they want an account-- I’d like this idea, Sara, where she was saying-- Let's say the kid wants an Instagram account. Well, let's have the child go pick out like, five really good Instagram accounts that seem to be really helping and like, you know, be positive things in the world and five negative ones, the ones that are like just gross and just seem toxic, you know? And give good-- So, you can see “are they aware of that? The difference?”, right?

[Kyle]: And that's a great conversation. Then the other one is like “hey, let's start one for the family dog”. So, we'll start one, we've got a dog named Aspen. “Let's start an Instagram account for Aspen and you're in charge of that and you run that account for three months and I want to see how you do it, how you use it and I want you to tell me how it works”, right? So, this whole process of holding their hand and saying “hey, there are boundaries, we're not just going to go ‘you want it? Okay, that was a good argument, you got it’”, you know? Or “that was a good argument, too bad”, you know? It's like “hey, it seems like you really want this. I’m concerned about this, this aspect of it, but I’m willing to journey this with you” or it might even be like, you know, “in three or four months, let's talk about this again, I don't think you're at the right age yet, but I want to talk about this soon”, right? So, the kid at least it helps the anxiety of the kid to know “you're at least listening, you're at least open”. If you come and it's just closed, the kid will feel either what they want isn't important and they should just stop asking or they're going to get what they want anyway, you know? And so, I want to guide that desire and disciple it to where you're more likely to make the social media in their life a positive thing, rather than negative one.

[Kyle]: And so, I think that's where this conflict can lead to you understanding each other better, your kid seeing, you know, your own stuff, your own internal world, but then also open-handedly saying “I would love to see yours too” and then that helps the kid be more conscious. Because I’m telling you, a lot of kids are on it, they're not thinking about it. They're not thinking about how it's impacting them in negative ways, a lot of times they're just doing it, you know? And they're not like “oh, if I look at TikTok for an hour, they're not asking the question “how did I feel after that? How did that impact my own thoughts about myself? Am I getting more anxious because I’ve been on social media a lot more now?”. They're not asking those questions and so, I think in their desire to have it, it opens a door now to have those conversations and it's going to be something that equips them for the rest of their life, as long as social media is in their life, which is going to be a long time, to have a healthy relationship not only with it and with themselves, but also with you, you know?

[Sara]: And it's very important right now, because-- I mean, man, in our lifetime, what's been amazing other things that didn't exist that now exist and there's more coming, it's an ever-changing world and we-- Maybe this is-- I don't know, this may be a poor example, but food, food's always going to be in my child's life. So, at first I picked their food and then we learned it and they're growing up and food's always going to be in their life, so it's an ongoing relationship. It's something you need to continue to check in about and think about, you know?

[Kyle]: Yeah, so good. Well, and cultivate a healthy way to--

[Sara]: Yeah, right? As adults we always think “well, I used to eat like this and now I eat like this and then--”. But we know that in the future, we may eat different too. I might get rid of this food or I might do-- You know, and so, to me social media is a similar thing. We're going to be-- It's not going anywhere, our child is going-- It's going to be part of their whole life and it's going to be ever changing, so their relationship needs to be able to adapt and be flexible. This is the relationship we have now with social media, it might be different in a year, it might be different in three years, who knows what other platforms might come into the picture. So, I want my child to have the ability not to learn one little platform and how to function on it, but the whole relationship with social media and how to look at myself and think about it and change what I’m doing and be aware, have that self-awareness of what's going on.

[Sara]: And that's something that-- A skill they're going to learn that hopefully they'll be able to carry on in the future.

[Kyle]: yeah, I love it. So, I hope this conversation really helps expand your thinking about social media, it also kind of helps you reflect upon, what have we--? Have we been discipling our kids with it? And it's never too late to change that conversation, it's never too late to come back and be more open and share more about your thoughts and feelings about it. I think kids want to be guided and mentored in this, I think it's scary to be alone in the world of social media and so, I think you inserting yourself at any point, you know, whether they're very little or they're older, I think they're going to want that guidance and so, I hope it encourages you to take that step forward and to not be either just a controlling parent or a laissez-faire parent, but to really raise digital citizens. Because we need them, we need some healthy digital citizens who know how to impact that space in a positive way, instead of just making it more and more toxic, you know? So, I hope this was helpful and I appreciate you listening. Once again, would love your feedback with things that inspires in you in ways in which these conversations go, we'd love to hear from you and hope you have a wonderful summer.

[Sara]: Thank you.

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