#parent | #kids | Commentary: Post PSLE, what if a 12-year-old wants an Instagram or TikTok account?

So perhaps whenever our teens pick up their smartphones, we could ask them: What am I needing at this moment when I pick up this phone?

And when the time comes for them to embark on the social media journey, parents should invest in being actively involved in your child’s journey on social media – not for surveillance but to talk about who they follow, why they like these accounts and what the potential red flags are.

A friend shared that once she had to stop her children from watching a Minecraft video online as the host was using foul language profusely. But she too acknowledges constantly monitoring what her kids are consuming is less effective compared to knowing what they are engaged by and talking to them about it.


Perhaps the best balm against the fear of our children being sucked into a social media black hole is quality family time. Time spent with them doing things that build up all their other interests.

It may not seem like it, but when families exercise or play sports, board games or cook together parents are building valuable guardrails for children. Children, even when they are teenagers, have a chance to see that their phones don’t have to be the only exciting thing in their lives.

This view is also echoed by Anna Lembke, the chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Stanford University and the author of Dopamine Nation. According to Lembke, family members need to “collectively all turn our attention to each other” whether it’s at the dinner table or elsewhere. “We have to do that in order to preserve those connections.”

The social media tide is not going to turn anytime soon, nor should we expect tech companies to do anything other than gun for more reach and revenue.

So parents have to play a much larger role in this – laying small but important planks of understanding, human connections and emotional skills.

Only then can we hope to ride this wave as safely as we can. Start now when your 12-year-old asks for an Instagram account.

June Yong is Lead of Insights at Focus on the Family Singapore and owner of MamaWearPapaShirt, a blog that discusses parenting and education in Singapore.

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