I've included below the most frequently “asked for” powerpoint slide in my parent seminars about teens and Facebook.  As you'll see it is one which outlines example questions parents can ask teens about their Facebook use.  I think parents like it because it provides specific words and phrases which can be used in a conversation with young people.   It is all well and good for us as professionals to say “talk to your teenager about cyberstalking, cyber bullying, dangers of predators and so on” but that doesn’t help a parent who frankly, isn’t quite sure about what to say or how to say it.  Specific words and phrases, on the other hand, give a starting off point for parents.

The reason I give example questions rather than example statements for parents to use, is that it is more important for us to “ask teenagers” rather than “tell teenagers” about their Facebook use.  When teenagers are asked, in a neutral, caring and interested way about what they think about a problem, what they have experienced, what they think makes it worse and better, what they think are solutions to a problem, and so on, a few positive things happen.  First, “asking” rather than “telling” helps teenagers feel calmer, less defensive and more in control.   This means the “thinking” parts of their brain are activated rather than the “defending/anxious” parts of their brain being dominant.  This in turn means we will get better quality information and better quality solutions.  Second, my experience has consistently been that “asking” for information/ideas/solutions helps teenagers remember this information/these ideas/be more committed to the solution than if we had simply given it to them ourselves.  I suspect this is partly because if teens are forced to think and articulate information themselves, their brains are more active, whereas if they are just listening to us talk, they are more likely to switch off!

In my experience, there are a number of keys to asking teenagers questions.  First, act as casual, cheerful and relaxed as possible.  Teenagers hate conversations with stressed, worried or frustrated adults.  Second,  ask questions which are easy to answer and don’t require too much thinking; for example either/or questions (is it more like X or more like Y, is it hard because or A or more because of B) or “scale” questions (on a scale of 1-5, would you say that’s a 3).  Third, ask questions which they find mildly interesting; for example questions about their friends, what their friends think, what kinds of things adults simply don’t understand and so on.  Fourth, know when to stop asking questions:  if it goes on too long, it becomes less of a conversation and more of an interrogation.

Here are some question ideas to get started on:

Questions to ask teens about their experience/knowledge of Facebook use

  • What are the most common problems?
  • When have you seen people get annoyed?
  • What has annoyed you?
  • Who embarrasses themselves?
  • What problems does that cause?
  • Have you seen someone be upset by something said?

Questions about their views and opinions about Facebook use

  • If Facebook was to change their rules – any ideas?
  • If your brother/sister/cousin was about to start – what advice?
  • What do you think rules should be?
  • How well do teens concentrate with Facebook on?

Questions about their strategies on Facebook

  • What if a friend logs in on your phone?
  • How do you make sure Facebook doesn’t distract you?
  • How do you say no thanks without offending?
  • How do you make sure you don’t spend more time than you want?
  • What would make it easier to tell me if upset by something?

If you are wanting help in talking with your teen about Facebook, or other difficult issues, you might like to consider the information on our counselling page.