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Hold your ground on social media

Your son said your no-Snapchat rule makes him an outcast. Should you cave?

Parent advice:

No. Snapchat, like most social media tools, is both opportunity and pitfall. Look at all the embarrassing mistakes supposed adults make. Don’t presume your middle school son will safely avoid them. Tell him you’ll allow Snapchat when you think he’s mature enough to handle it.

– Bill Daley

It’s the old “but everyone else is doing it” argument, which parents have been fighting since Jesus was a pup. Cave on this, and the next thing you know your son will want a tattoo. Parents need to get the idea across that their children can’t live in a majority-rules world, especially if that majority is making uninformed or just plain dumb decisions. There is value in being a leader who makes his or her own decisions, rather than a blind follower.

– Bill Hageman

Expert advice:

“Parents need to hold their ground, but they also need to understand why they’re forbidding certain apps and allowing others,” said Dr. Jennifer Wider, co-author of “Got Teens? The Doctor Moms’ Guide to Sexuality, Social Media and Other Adolescent Realities” (Seal Press).

“The issue is more about responsible behavior than trying to lasso in all these apps and keep track of which ones are OK and which ones aren’t,” Wider said. “These apps are evolving at lightning speed.”

Snapchat allows users to send photos and texts that disappear from your device after a few seconds. An estimated 26 million to 30 million people in the United States use the app, according to the Search Engine Journal.

Have a conversation with your son about why Snapchat, in particular, strikes you as inappropriate and decide, based on that conversation, whether to lift your ban.

More important, Wider said, launch a conversation about the responsible use of social media.

“We recommend drawing up a social contract for your child to sign and follow,” Wider said. “If they violate any of the statutes, the phone gets taken away.”

A sample contract can be found in “Got Teens?” and includes such clauses as “I will not take pictures of myself or my friends without our clothes on,” “I will not forward any questionable pictures that I may receive to anyone else,” “I may not use my phone to write mean or nasty things about my friends or peers” and “I will charge my phone outside my bedroom and leave it there overnight.”

Through it all, Wider said, the focus should be less on what your son’s friends get to do – or want him to do – and more on how to responsibly navigate the enormous range of devices and apps aimed at his demographic.

“Social media apps are like whack-a-mole; you can hit Snapchat on the head, and something else is going to pop up.”

Have a solution? Your 10-year-old daughter’s BFF is moving away. How do you help her cope? Find “The Parent ’Hood” page on Facebook to post parenting questions and solutions.

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