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If your daughter is like most growing girls, she’s begging you for a phone and she feels ready to jump into social media. And if you are like most parents, you are not ready (yet). The New York Times tells us that students are spending over eight hours each day on their phones, mostly scrolling and swiping through social media, creating videos on TikTok, watching YouTube videos, and of course chatting on Snapchat.

Girls tell me all the time how much they love social media – feeling they belong to the “phone club,” the chance to feel connected and included amongst peers, the ideas that inspire them, and the hours of pure entertainment. Yet, many of them admit they also loathe social media–it can feel like pressure to keep up and post “perfectly,” to see polished pictures and not only feel jealous after a quick comparison, but also “not good enough,” to obsess over likes, comments, and the number of followers, and of course, the worry about being left out at best and harassed or bullied at worst.

After speaking to girls and so many parents, here are six steps you can take, starting today, to help you and your daughter plan and prepare for her transition into the virtual world (and to support her if she’s already there):

Step 1: Ask Her about Her Reasons Why She Wants a Phone

Does she feel peer pressure? Is she simply curious? Is she wanting connection? Does she feel left out? You may be surprised to hear what she has to say.

Step 2: Give Her the Facts about Screens & Social Media

  • Screen time is a distraction and can be very stressful
  • Girls are spending more than 8 hours each day on their phones
  • Girls feel a lot of pressure to post and keep up every day
  • Girls worry a lot about being judged, criticized, and mocked
  • Girls today feel more disconnected, lonely, left out, and not good enough when they are online

The facts will likely not dissuade her but they will inform her.

Step 3: Discuss the Pros & Cons

  • Entertaining and fun
  • Inspiring her with creative ideas
  • Feeling connected, included, and “normal”
  • Keeping in touch and the chance to share stories and experiences
  • Self-promoting to be entrepreneurial
  • Escaping after a stressful day at school
  • Distracting
  • Bullying
  • Feeling judged
  • Competing and comparing
  • Feeling it’s too fake and too superficial
  • Addicting
  • Decreasing self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Influencing how she may feel about herself and her body

Step 4: Create Guidelines Together

Consider these ideas:

  • Ensuring her safety is a priority: turn off location settings, turn on privacy settings; don’t share personal information
  • Monitoring time on devices and deciding on her “magic number”
  • Choosing a screen and social media time slot each day and sticking to it
  • Helping her makes decisions such as: who to accept and follow; what to post and how often
  • Encouraging her to be real online: her true and authentic self
  • Talking about her triggers: what could bother her and why
  • Agreeing where the phone should go at night so she has a quality sleep
  • Helping her choose safe websites and platforms
  • Reminding her of her priorities (homework, chores, play, etc.)
  • Discussing “thinking before posting” and her digital footprint

Step 5: Explore “What If Situations”

What if…

  • She makes a mistake online
  • She posts and nobody “likes” or comments
  • She gets mean comments
  • She gets bullied
  • She feels uncomfortable and unsafe

Then create a plan, empowering her with people she can talk to (other than you) and what she can do: block, delete, unfollow, report (if necessary), and do a digital detox by taking time off to be in the real world

Step 6: Talk about What She’s Missing When She Chooses Screen Time

The chance to:

  • Play
  • Spend time outside
  • Create
  • Make real connections
  • Reflect
  • Unwind
  • Set goals
  • Develop her skillset
  • Dream

Girls having phones is inevitable. Yet, we, as girl supporters and girl champions, can navigate the virtual world with her—keeping her aware, healthy, and happy online.