Skip to content

When to Thumbs Down 
In order to act responsibly online, children need to know when and how to disengage from social media. We call this Thumbs Down.

When our children started engaging with social media, we did what the experts advised. We turned on parental controls, monitored their activity, had them sign technology contracts, and warned them against online bullying and inappropriate content. However, we realized that setting our children up to become responsible, and eventually independent, users of social media required us to provide more.  So we developed the Thumbs Down. Speak Up. (TDSU)  approach, guided by time-tested teaching techniques and child development research. 

Our first step was to arm our children with specific guidance about posting protocols, as well as the tools to disengage from on-line interactions and content when things got thorny. 

We call this Thumbs Down.

Thumbs Down means: leaving a group chat; not liking, forwarding, or commenting on content; or taking an interaction off-line. It also includes pausing before sending or posting to allow for time to reflect on tone, intention, and possible consequences. 

Tweens are uniquely primed to learn when and how to Thumbs Down because of their developing ability to delay gratification; their increased impulse control; and their ability to engage in self-reflection and to see things from another’s perspective.

Start a smarter conversation with your family about when and how to Thumbs Down.

Ask: Is what I’m seeing or about to send any of the following? 

1. Problematic Posts
Encourage your child to pause before posting and disengage from texts or posts that: 

  • Are mean-spirited
  • Include the use of photos without consent
  • Require context, knowledge of intention, and/or tone to make sense
  • Violate a school’s code of conduct or digital use contract

2. 3Ds It’s Bigger Than Me
Teach your child to tell a trusted adult about texts or posts that are: 

  • Disturbing –  anything that is troubling or confusing
  • Disparaging – content that demeans or humiliates a person or group of people based on things like: religion, ethnicity, race, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, country of origin, political views, or special needs
  • Dangerous – these indicate harmful intent

3. Complicated Communication
Some online interactions need to be had offline. These could include conversations that involve:

  • Sensitive subject matter 
  • Emotional content  
  • Anything that feels complex

Don’t just follow your kids online.  Lead them.