Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Social Media and Teens’ Photos: Are They Influencing Your Son’s Choices?

When it comes to your child’s online activity, you already have plenty to worry about. You have to worry about whether or not your underage youngster is talking to someone much older, someone who might not have the best intentions in mind, and you have to hope your child isn’t being cyber-bullied or visiting offensive websites.

Unfortunately, according to new research, you may have to worry about one more thing: what your child’s friends are posting online. A new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California, has discovered that teens who see certain high-risk activities—such as underage drinking and smoking—displayed on friends’ social media sites are more likely to engage in these activities themselves.

Talking to Teens

Before you panic and order your child to delete his or her Facebook or other social media accounts, know that you still have some control over your child. If you talk to your teen about the risks associated with drinking, smoking, and drug use, chances are that you can keep your child from using these substances, regardless of what he or she sees online. After all, parental guidance, when presented in the right way, can be a lot stronger and more effective than just a few pictures online.

Some tips for talking to your child about substance abuse and its effects and for bringing up a healthy child, one who is less likely to engage in substance abuse, include:

  • Present yourself as someone understanding, open-minded, non-judgmental, and easy to talk to. Do this all the time, not just when discussing substance abuse. Your teen will be more likely to come to you with problems and concerns.
  • Spend time with your child regularly.
  • Be a good example in terms of your own substance use.
  • Have firm rules in place, as well as consequences for breaking those rules.
  • Show respect to your child but still affirm that you are boss.
  • When talking to your teen about alcohol, encourage him or her to ask questions. Answer them honestly, openly, and factually (this may require some research on your part).
  • Do not lose control or let your emotions get the best of you, no matter what your child may reveal to you about his or her own substance abuse.
  • If your child confesses to having a problem with drugs or alcohol, seek professional help for him or her.

Dealing with Social Media

In addition to talking with your son about substance abuse and striving to raise an emotionally healthy adolescent, know what social media sites your child is using and who his “friends” are on those sites. You may not be able to weed out every single friend who posts triggering pictures, but you can talk to your child about what he is seeing and why the activities portrayed are not okay and monitor his account.

If you find that your child is struggling with drugs or alcohol, it’s important to take action. Download our information packet or contact our call center here at Muir Wood today.