I love social media (maybe too much).
It is a vehicle for me to communicate with readers, family, and friends.
Social media has allowed this blog to reach many people and it's afforded my family lots of extras through the income it helps generate.
I am NOT anti social media.
I am, however, very anti social media for our kids.
Our family came about this decision the hard way.
Disclaimer: Our experience with our own tween is solely with Instagram. I have observed other children I know on Twitter and Facebook as well.
I saw so many friends letting their children have an Instagram account, or share a Facebook account with them. I even know some kids (tweens) that are tweeting.
I thought my daughter would enjoy having an Instagram account. It would be a fun way for her to communicate with children of my homeschool blogger friends, and a way for her to keep up with some friends she knows in person.
My husband (wise man that he is) didn't think it was such a great idea, but in a moment of weakness last year we let our daughter get her own Instagram account as a reward.
Before you read any further, you might want to read A Word About Instagram - it puts into words what I wanted to several months ago, but just couldn't bring myself to write about.
While my daughter (who was then 11) enjoyed the interaction and posting pictures, I started noticing that her moods would deteriorate when she was allowed to spend time on Instagram.
She was friends with one particular girl who was posting obscene words and threatening other children in her school. (Our experience with this child had always been favorable. Her behavior came as a shock to us.)
This same child also would make posts "rating" her IG friends on a scale of 1-10. Anna was so happy when this friend gave her a rating of 8, but I'm wondering about those poor friends who got ratings of 2 and 3.
As if being a preteen isn't hard enough - our children get to worry about friendships through social media, too.
Anna was exposed to profanity (not through her friends, but through photos her friends liked - yes, you can see those) that she had never heard before.
So, while her friends were limited and I patrolled Instagram regularly, there was NO WAY to shield her from things she just wasn't ready for.
One day we sat her down and told her Instagram had to be shut down. She was disappointed, but now (a few months after the fact) she never mentions it and will even tell us she is happier without it. I used that moment to admit my parenting mistake and asked her to forgive me for making a bad decision. It was humbling, but a huge blessing in disguise.
Why Social Media Gets the Thumbs Down
- There is no reason our kids need this extra stimulation and "socialization". It is just another way our society forces children to grow up waaaay too fast. Ironically it is also creating a culture of children are much more immature than ever before.
- Social media makes our kids have an unnatural obsession with themselves. Just look at the amount of "selfies" kids are posting. Would you walk down the street and shout, "LOOK AT ME? DON'T I LOOK GREAT TODAY?" Probably not - yet this is what social media does.
- There are so many other good things for our children to be doing - reading books, creating things, actually TALKING with their friends, and so much more.
- It's a safety issue - there are all kinds of creepy people out there that are very social media savvy. You are fooling yourself if you don't think they have their eyes on our children. This scares me the most.
- There is a record of social media activity- colleges, employers, and others can search these sites and see what your child's activity was like.
- It makes an already difficult time in our children's lives even more difficult and public. Now kids are open to criticism and bullying from THOUSANDS of people rather than their immediate circle of peers. Why do we want to do this to our kids?
- It's addictive - Kids get sucked into this and feel they can't function unless they see what their friends have been doing. I know this, because sometimes I fall prey to this addiction, and I fight hard against it.
- A lot of parents are clueless about it - which makes it every more of a minefield for their children. If you're going to let your kid be on these sites, at least watch them like a hawk and be present yourself.
I've watched "good" kids get access to social media and do some very stupid things.
I've been with kids who are constantly looking at their phone while in my presence - I think it's rude for adults to do this, and for kids it's even more disturbing.
I can already hear the rebuttal to this post.
I've personally had this discussion with a few people in my life.
They think I'm overprotective. They think my child is sheltered and will never learn to use this technology unless she tries it out under my watchful eye.
They think THEIR CHILD can handle it.
Funny. I heard this same argument about why I shouldn't homeschool my kids.
I'm going to err on the side of caution with this issue.
Our children need our protection, wisdom and discipline. I think a lot of parents cave into social media for their kids because "everyone else is doing it". And let's face it - it keeps the big kids quiet and occupied if they can stare at their phones and be connected 24/7.
Read Protecting Kids' Heart Deep Identity: A Note To Parents About Instagram. This article nails it for me.
There's also a "coolness" factor - the need to impress others - and this can be done through social media.
There are so many factors out of our control with social media and I'm just not willing to go there right now.
And I don't think you should, either.
We have decided to completely say NO to social media. There is no gray area. There is no "just a little bit" or "just a few friends on Instagram".
Social media for kids is a huge Pandora's Box and we should all be mindful of that fact.
In doing some research for this post I came across A Parent's Guide to Instagram. I laughed out loud when I read this in the guide:
And there's a risk of social marginalization for kids who are notallowed to socialize in this way that's now so embedded in their social lives. Wiseuse tends to be better than no use.