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So your 9-year-old is begging for a phone.  Or maybe your tween is lobbying to start using Snapchat.  Perhaps your child has been on TikTok for as long as you can remember. You have all the worries and concerns anybody would imagine, but it all feels so overwhelming. Where do you start in bringing your child – and yourself – up to speed about the online world and ways to be safe and responsible?

TDSU is here to make it easy!  Follow along with our Quick Start guide and we will get you and your child on the path to learning the skills they need to navigate their online lives. 

TDSU’s Quick Start Guide

Let Your Tween Be Your Tour Guide

Get the conversation started by having your tween be the expert!  They want Snapchat? Download the app on your phone and have them show you around.  They don’t even have their own phone yet? You might be surprised by how much they know!  Have them show you.  Are they regularly posting on TikTok? Let them know you are going to start following them because you would love to learn more about what they do.  Or ask them to take you on a tour of their favorite TikTokers.  Think of this as your information gathering stage – both about the online world and about how your child engages with the digital world.

Set a Goal

Get on the same page with your tween – what are they working towards?  Do they want to be able to text with friends? Are they starting their own YouTube channel?  Do they want to be allowed to play video games on Discord or follow their favorite players on Twitch?  Whatever it is, talk with them to figure out what they need (and what you need!) in order to successfully work towards their goal.

Drop Some Knowledge

This is the time to teach your tween when and how to Pause Before Posting; Move a Conversation Offline; and Reach Out to an Adult.  Head over here to learn how!


Decide when you will check-in on progress, how you will both know whether it is time to increase independence, or whether there is more learning that needs to happen.  When you check-in, keep in mind the collaborative tone of this discussion and be sure to ask your tween what they think is working or isn’t and where they would like more support or less of your involvement.  Make their growth and development something to celebrate!

Increase Independence

Has your tween shown you that they are ready for more independence online?  Maybe they are ready for their Trusted Team to be made up of just their peers rather than adults.  Maybe you are confident that they know how to Pause Before Posting, so they no longer need to run posts by you.  Maybe they are showing enough impulse control to monitor their own screen time. 

Whatever your tween’s next step towards more independence is, they are more likely to be successful with a game plan.

See if you and your tween can come up with some ways to recognize when new skills have been integrated. 

Keep Checking-In!

Even if your tween is showing you that they’ve mastered the skills to be safe and responsible online, you want to keep touching base and just see how things are going.  Make sure everybody is still on the same page as to rules, expectations, and boundaries. Check-in to make sure that the lines of communication remain open.  

And if there’s been a misstep (and chances are good there will be!), that’s ok.  Remember,  learning isn’t linear.  You should expect that sometimes your tween needs to take a step back and review.  Take advantage of those Teachable Moments

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