Last week I was really pleased to be one of the lucky ones to get a place for an always oversubscribed webinar run by local secondary school teens; Social Media Advice, but through their eyes and experience.

There is always more to learn, and who better to hear from, than those at the ‘front line’? I will share in this blog my key takeaways, many of which were quite niche, but which you might already know. I won’t share some of the more commonly discussed stuff, like checking privacy settings, because there’s loads written about that already.

All credit to the 3 young people from Bristol Grammar School, and thank you to the Bristol Educational Partnership for the webinar.

·      Terminology evolves all the time. Don’t expect to learn it all, or understand it. It is normal for teens to develop their own language- eg NOOB (negative word for a beginner) or GG (Good Game) (& they clearly never watched Brucie in his Heyday!)

·      They use YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram the most, and barely touch Twitter/ Facebook

·      ‘Account Aging’ is a *risk*- this happens when they may have signed up to a social media account aged 11 (even though most have 13+ as minimum age), the account then ‘ages’ with them, so when they reach 16 they start to receive 18+ material, as that is what they are ‘seen’ to be.

·      The Snapchat feature ‘snapmaps’- shows the location of users, so best to switch off perhaps?

·      Screenshots of snapchat messages/ Instagram stories means they don’t just disappear after 24 hours. A reasonably well recognised risk but worth re-iterating.

·      YouTube is 13+- but most year 7/8 using it regularly. This may mean they are exposed to unpleasant feedback and comments if they post videos whilst still quite young.

If you’re going to have a conversation about social media the teens advise the following approach (which I also advocate).

·      Keep it chatty and inquisitive- ask what they want from social media, how they’re going to protect themselves, or minimise risks.

·      Plan ahead how much time will be spent on it, & consider rewards if they keep to mutually agreed boundaries.

·      Talk to fellow parents in their peer group (if young tweens/ teens) to agree same boundaries and make it simpler to keep to- if everyone doing the same.

·      Set time limits for specific apps- e.g. set an alarm for 20 mins of TikTok -as can ‘go down a rabbit hole’ and waste hours on there (from 6th former!)

·      Be consistent and stick to agreed boundaries.

·      If new to social media- have a trial e.g. 30 mins twice a day, to see how it goes, and test it, then review after a week, same with screen time. Adjust according to mood impact, sleep and so on.

·      Only charge all tech downstairs overnight, so the phones are never in bedrooms during the night.

·      Use ‘Do not Disturb’ mode and blue light filters to minimise disruption to sleep.

·      Don’t take away the phone / tech as punishment; instead, discuss the issue and agree sanctions/ negotiate with them. This maintains and builds trust whereas removing their link to their friends is too stressful a consequence for most transgressions.

·      Sexting- if one is received, encourage them to speak to a trusted adult and NEVER share it. Report if happy to do so and delete. Have open conversations about this risk, so that it is not scary and overwhelming for them when deciding what to do if they receive one.

·      Gaming- look at privacy setting as always, and age settings to check appropriate. Many younger kids are playing games rated 15+, without parents realising.

·      In-game purchases are a financial risk- well worth checking if they are purchasing them eg costumes for their characters, how they are doing so, and being aware that the tech will remember bank details, meaning purchases can be made repeatedly without the teen/ tween realising the financial impact till you check your account. (We had this, just this week, when my 11 year old accidentally purchased an Amazon tv series without realising it cost me money. The series was fine, but he now understands not to do that without checking!).

So there you have it, some very useful practical tips, much in line with what we wrote in How to Grow a Grown Up but from the mouths of teens in 2021!

Happy negotiating!