How do I set limits with teens and Facebook?

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Answered by: Wendy, An Expert in the Parenting Teenagers Category
Setting limits with teens...Talk about an age-old dilemma! The specifics might change from generation to generation, but ever since the first teenagers roamed the earth, parents have agonized over how to keep them safe while giving them their much-needed independence, struggled to come up with fair boundaries, and fought to honor their teen's freedom while teaching them lessons like delayed gratification and prioritizing. Twenty years ago it was television; forty years ago it was the telephone or the car; and in the eras before any sort of technology it was romance, curfews, and chores...



Today's teens, then, are facing the same developmental tasks every teen has faced -- individuation, rebellion, ego development -- but today's technology provides some added complications. Easy access. Constant exposure. Immediate gratification. Becoming online chums with total strangers. Having the opportunity to deny themselves of downtime, always being plugged in, always available, 24 hours a day, as if they are running a small country instead of a 9th grade social life. Are they learning the fine art of imagination and creativity, things fostered by idle time? Are they cultivating strong peer relationships? Are they able to read tone of voice, facial expressions, body language? What is being lost among the gains of technology?

A long talk -- a face-to-face talk with no electronic distractions -- about these things will be key in creating boundaries for your daughter, otherwise these boundaries are likely to sound punitive and arbitrary. Just saying "A half hour per night on Facebook or you're grounded" is not the way to approach this one. This is a sensitive subject close to their hearts. Those pictures of teen girls in the 1950s with their feet on the wall and the phone cord twisted around their hand? They weren't just chatting -- that was their lifeline, they were navigating their way through peer pressure and bad dates, acne and fashion -- together. Our teens nowadays need their phones and Facebook and text and IM and chat and Skype and Formspring (and even the now-archaic email) as much as any of us need our talk-therapy.



But they also need boundaries -- they feel safer with boundaries. Sit down with your daughter and come up with some groundrules. For example:

- Set a time limit per night on Facebook - 20 minutes, 3 hours, somewhere in between, but discuss it, negotiate it, let some of it be her idea

- She gives you her username and password

- You get to see who she accepts/sends friend requests from/to

- Any form of electronic communication is done after homework is done

- Phone and Facebook can be grade- or chore-dependent

Setting limits with teens is one of the most difficult parts of parenting, but hands-down one of the most important. Be empowered, not apologetic. Be honest, not controlling. Share the reasons for your limits. Remind her that you want her to grow into a well-balanced woman who goes and lives -- really lives -- out loud in the world, not quietly from behind a keyboard. Be firm, be kind, and remember: any act of parenting done with love is an act of parenting well done.

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