Unpopular opinion: Social Media is more important than ever right now for our teens (sorry parents), but that also means this is the perfect time to have a conversation with your teenager about what kind of content they are viewing (sorry teenagers).

The Launch Pad’s daily Drop-In Hours carries one major activity teens have to participate in: 30 minutes of unplugged time. We are giant proponents of getting teens off of their phones and engaging in real life connections with their peers and positive adult mentors. Yet, during this unprecedented time, all of our lives have largely moved online. The Launch Pad knows that positive connection is the most important indicator of mentally healthy teens and adults, therefore, we are currently encouraging teens to engage with each other by using social media, Zoom programmings, video chats, texting, etc. However, we have a few recommendations to make sure this connection is contributing to a positive mental outlook, and not becoming detrimental.

Sit down with your teen and have them show you what populates on their social media homepage and explore pages. The explore page will populate based on posts your teen has “liked” in the past, therefore you will get a feel for what kind of content your teen is engaging with.

Empower your teen to set boundaries around Social Media. 24/7 Social Media is not healthy for anyone. Perhaps your family could set a certain hour or two a day that everyone in the family puts their phones in a drawer or your family could hold a competition to see how much screen time each week. There are also great apps that can help you set yourself up for success by blocking a certain app for a period of time (perhaps during schoolwork time, or even for just an hour a day).

Talk to your teens about how they represent themselves online. What kinds of things do they post? How do they present themselves? At The Launch Pad we like to remind teens to never post anything online that they wouldn’t say in person, that they wouldn’t want their grandparents to see, and that they wouldn’t want a college admissions officer to see.

Teenagers and young folks communicate through memes. Memes have become a second language. Often very funny, memes (when appropriate) can be a way to find humor, relief, and connection during difficult times (like the one above).

Ask your teen to show you the apps they have on their phone. Dating sites like Tinder, Grinder, Bumble, Hinge, Coffee meets Bagel, and OKCupid are all popular young dating apps. All of these apps require a minimum age of 18, however it is extremely easy and common to lie about age on these apps. Do a quick Google search to familiarize yourself with app icons so you can quickly recognize concerning apps. If your teen has any of these apps, have a conversation with them- what are the looking for in these apps (Connection? Attention? Explore their sexuality?).

Above all else, honesty is the best policy. It’s so important to maintain open and honest communication about who your teens are interacting with online, what they are posting and engaging with, and how social media makes them feel emotionally.

Our current objective with Zoom programming is to create a way for teenagers to engage with their peers and positive adult role models in order to maintain connection during this time of social isolation. Connection is so important to developing teenage brains and positive connection is needed now more than ever. Help your teen connect today and sign them up for a TLP Zoom Program.