Figuring out social media access for 13YO

Hello, my 13 year old daughter LOVES her phone as we all do and I have tried to manage her access in a healthy way. It's been super challenging to set limits and keep to those and to help her understand why there are limits. I use the Screentime functionality on her iPhone. We are soon moving into the Instagram world (and TikTok, YouTube, and the whole internet). Any suggestions on how continue to set limits and/or monitor her actions or teach her the good and bad about social media/overuse of screens? I need to work with her on her becoming more aware of her own usage and how she thinks she's doing managing a phone. Thanks for any ideas.

Parent Replies

Parents, please Sign in to post a review on this page.

I have a 13 yo daughter and she is not allowed any social media nor do we plan to allow it anytime soon. Maybe at 16. Obviously she sees it a bit, but you'd be surprised how just not having access to it helps. She doesn't have a browser on her phone; again, no plans to add it anytime soon. I think it's ridiculous to expect a young teen to "manage" their consumption of a highly addictive product all by themselves. By the way, same goes for my 15 yo son but he doesn't push the limits of texting the way the daughter does.

Same as the previous poster--no social media for our sixth grader until at least high school. It has been hugely problematic for the kids we know who have already started to use those apps, and got bad enough that our school outright banned phones and asked parents to commit to blocking the social media apps. (Some do, others don't.) We use ScreenTime to limit access to apps and to monitor and limit screen time overall; it's not perfect but most of the time it's good enough. No access to anything during the school day. After school, texting and music apps are okay, and we approve internet usage as needed for homework. On weekends, they have access to all of their apps with daily screen time time limits (and open access to phone calls and texting). For texting, we have passcodes to the devices and periodically check to try to address issues, though again--far from perfect, and more often than not I find out about problems from other parents whose kids were on the same text threads. You can set screen time limits and targets and have the reports sent to kids if you want them to monitor their own usage--though I think that is a tough lift for kids this age (and frankly for many adults, too!) The hard limit has been valuable for our family.

Delay delay delay!

Many of the apps that kids use have a vanish mode that allows them to hide or auto delete their DMs, and there's a lot of activity in the DMs. Our kid is struggling with cannabis use, so right now closing off avenues he can use to negotiate acquisition of it is our top priority. But in 8th grade they fell down a rabbit hole of fascination with some really toxic and charismatic influencers.  

Initially the deal was that we were explicit that it wasn't private and we had to be allowed to follow them and see what they were watching. Our kid managed to set up their own gmail account and use it to set up accounts on tiktok and instagram. We don't allow the apps, so they have to do everything in the browser (where there's no vanish mode) and there's a time limit cut off. We have Android, so I set them up with one browser that has no restrictions and a time limit, and a second that has no time cutoff but almost no permitted websites (every website has to be explicitly added -- I pre-loaded infinite campus and AC transit and 

There is really good research on dopamine pathways and social media, in both adults and kids, and I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that there's not a universe where social media is safe or reasonable for tweens and teens. There's a lot of good research on body image and self esteem, too. I absolutely regret giving in on this and wish I had stuck to my instincts for much longer. I wouldn't even put the cut off at "high school" -- I think 16, tbh. 

Our kid insists that "everyone" has Instagram, but I know for a fact that that's not true. It is so much harder to pull back after you've allowed it. 

I am not sure whether my answer would be useful. My daughter is entering 6th grade and we have not given her a phone, and plan to avoid for as many years as possible. If we have to give her a phone for safety reasons, I hope to explore the basic phones where she can only make calls. No social media either. She gets 'computer time' / 'tv time' on specific days when she does watch some tiktok and youtube videos, but she is not allowed to register for any social media sites or engage with them in any way. Again, I hope to avoid social media at least for the next few years.

There are many reasons to avoid social media and smartphones, but one of my reasons is that managing screen-time  after having a screen-in-hand is very hard. I get pushback even for the limits on computer and TV time, so I don't want to add more devices and apps.

To help her understand why there are limits and why it's important to keep them, you should look at Delaney Ruston's blog/podcast. She did the movie Screenagers and the two follow ups dealing with teen mental health and drug use/abuse. She has some good info and helps parents have calm and productive conversations about screen time and social media.

This is definitely a fraught issue and a source of conflict for us -- indeed most families. If someone tells you it isn't they are either lying or their child is totally out of touch with their peers. We've told our kids that while they are minors (and we pay the cell phone bill), we need to have their passcodes and access to their social media accounts. We also have strict screentime limits and downtime on devices during the sleeping hours. But you constantly have to be on them -- I recently realized my son figured out the screentime password. They are constantly trying to find ways to get around it or asking for more time for this or that. It is such a drag, but it is worth it to help them regulate their use of devices and take breaks. Good luck to you!

My wife and I had originally hired an expert in Digital Wellness in order to help our son overcome gaming addiction.  The therapist did incredible work with our son but also gave us a lot of helpful tools that worked with our younger daughter (12 yr old) too.  Something we learned was that while the limitation and monitoring software has its use, such programs don't really teach teens how to moderate. It just restricts them, which only really stops them from following through on using tech.  Instead, the therapist recommended we pair a limitation program (we used Norton Family for our daughter's iPhone) with a self-monitoring program. This way, your teen builds the habits necessary for when the limitations are removed (see the article below)

In case anyone is interested, the therapist's name is Alex Basche. We saw him at his Menlo Park office but he also is virtual. Which, I must say, I thought would never work with our son since technology was the issue. It turned out that Mr. Basche was able to harness the virtual therapy setting in a way that was effective. This is his website: