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7 Social Media Conversation-Starters to Use With Your Teen This Summer

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While over 60,000 K–12 schools—independent, parochial, charter, and public—across the country and another 15,000 schools around the globe educate students to use social media and technology positively, there is one looming challenge: the summer slide.

This phenomenon occurs when students’ skills slip out of practice during the summer months. While the summer slide usually focuses on a student’s academic losses, it’s equally important to recognize one of the biggest influences on a child’s health, happiness, and future success: social media.

After all, summertime is every child’s chance to relax, hang out with friends, and of course, spend more time using their favorite apps and devices. And while students won’t experience their weekly digital citizenship lessons over the summertime, we can still proactively huddle with our kids to reinforce positive use of social media and technology.

Huddling, not helicoptering, is the key to parenting in the age of social media. While some parents might feel an urge to hover and monitor — let’s face it — teenagers will always be one step ahead of adults when it comes to technology and social media use. Having regular, open-minded conversations with our kids — huddles — help us understand their “social” world and the complex pressures they face every day.

Before you huddle, here are three tips to remember:

  • Huddles are casual and can happen anytime, anywhere — on your next vacation, during the car ride home from summer camp, or over family dinner.
  • Keep your cool. It’s easy to overreact, so try to listen and ask open-ended questions.
  • Let your child “coach up” and teach you! When it comes to social media, students are ahead of the game, so use a huddle as a chance to understand your child’s social world.

Below are seven types of huddles you can run to help your child avoid the summer slide of social media. All of these huddles reflect the seven standards of The Social Institute’s gamified curriculum, which our team developed with input from over 40,000 students nationwide.

#1: Huddle about Playing to Your Core

Because what we text, post, and share reflects our character and core values, huddle about what we post online this summer — whether on vacation or at a friend’s sleepover.

  • “What are people posting about now that school’s out?”
  • “How could social media be a first impression of someone’s character?”
  • “What might a future college or employer consider a red flag on social media?”

#2: Huddle about Protecting Your Privacy Like You’re Famous

Because finstas (or, fake Instagram accounts) are becoming more common for middle school and high school students, huddle about how any post, snap, or 24-hour story is shareable and screenshot-able.

  • “What does a finsta account look like?”
  • “Why would someone create a finsta?”
  • “How could a finsta, story, or snap spread beyond who it’s intended for?”

#3: Huddle about Striking a Balance

Because technology should enhance our summer fun, not take it over, huddle about moments to have our “eyes up” versus “eyes down” while on summer vacation or during summer camp.

  • “How do you know when technology is becoming too much of a distraction?”
  • “What impression would someone give if they’re focused on their device when you’re trying to talk to them?”
  • “What are ways our family could better balance using devices this summer?

#4: Huddle about Cyberbacking

Because cyberbullying can easily occur over the summer when students are behind screens, where it’s relatively easy to click “send” on a hurtful comments that they’d never say in person, huddle to proactively build empathy and problem-solving skills.

  • “What kinds of summer social media posts might hurt someone’s feelings?”
  • “Why are people more likely to bully someone online versus in-person?”
  • “If you ever saw a hurtful post shared by a friend, how would you respond?”

#5: Huddle about Building a Strong Team

Because summer is the perfect time to clean out who we’re following and to fill our feed with positive role models, huddle about who sets the standard on social media.

  • “What are some of your favorite accounts that you follow?”
  • “Which of those accounts would you say are positive role models?”
  • “How could who/what we follow influence our goals and attitude?”

#6: Huddle about Using Your Mic For Good

Because summer is a chance for volunteering and working on passion projects, encourage your child to use social media to show off their work and inspire others to do good.

  • “When have you seen social media be a tool for positive change?”
  • “What are some ways you could promote your passion project(s) this summer?”
  • “How could you use social media to encourage more people to get involved?”

#7: Huddle about Huddling Often

Because no great team huddles once, then calls it quits. Building trust and empathy takes ongoing effort. Continue setting time aside during family dinners and car rides to huddle about complex social media situations that both adults and students face.

While it may be tempting to helicopter this summer, huddling is what will ultimately build trust with your child. And this trust lays the foundation for your child to come to you when (not if) the going gets tough around social media. It’s a short commitment with a lifetime of value.

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