Is your child consumed with social media?  Snapchat, Instagram, twitter, facebook, and the list goes on and on. The next craze will be here any day… They all start innocently enough. It is what kids are into, this is what they do. This is how they communicate these days. This is what we tell ourselves. As parents, we need to be aware of what is going on and know when to address it.

Is there a secret life of teens and tween’s online that we are not a part of? What is going on, what are we missing out on? How do I know when to step in? Is what my child saying a sign that there is a more significant problem? Has my child become withdrawn? Are they being bullied? There are a lot of things to watch out for and so many places to look as well. It can be a full-time job keeping up with your children’s social media space, but it is important to do it.

Keep an eye on how your child is acting in real life, not what he/she is saying and posting online. Has anything changed about them? If your child has become withdrawn or is communicating less with you, this is sign that something most likely bothering them. Listen to comments they are making; do you hear they say things like “life is meaningless,” “I feel depressed,” or “people suck”? These are strong indicators that they may be being bullied online.

Other signs to be on the lookout for are changes in sleeping or eating habits. Are they eating or sleeping less? Do they seem nervous or jumpy when using their computer or phone? Listen to how they respond to your questions. One-word answers are typically red flags. If you ask them about their social media day and all you get is a one-word response good or fine, press for more. Their social media experience is all about emotions and experiences, if all you are getting is a simple response, you are not getting the whole story, so ask for it and don’t let up.

Social media is something we didn’t have when we were growing up, now it is a big factor in our children’s’ lives and can be a big factor in their well-being and self-esteem. They judge themselves against others, others judge them, whether overtly or in passing. Small comments can be misconstrued and taken in a way they were not meant at all. The problem with the written word on the internet, is that once it is there, it is there for all to see and interpret.

Things that happen when you are 15 will still be on the internet when you are 55, does your child understand the implications of that? Have you explained that to them?

Protecting our children is one of the biggest things we as parents can do and monitoring their social media presence is a big part of doing that.