A post making its way around the internet details how children are using Instagram, and not always for sharing pictures. They are having beauty contests and all other kinds of shenanigans as one mom found out when checking out her 10 year-old daughter's feed. This raises a whole host of issues about tweens and social media.
You can find the blog post on beauty contests on Instagram by Hollee Actman Becker here. When she saw that her daughter was participating in an Instagram beauty contest, she posted a picture that said Beauty Is Skin Deep and that she would unfollow those who participate in such hurtful contests. Many girls in the feed followed suit, posting their own inspirational, affirming quotes. Becker said, "[I]f this is not just the most amazing show of tween girl power, then I don't know what is."
There's a lot to say on this. A whole lot. But here are my quick two cents on the matter.
- This is not the most amazing display of tween girl power. This post illustrates that kids can be lemmings, particularly when it comes to social media. When someone decided to have a beauty contest, they all hopped on board. When someone said that wasn't cool, they switched course. Who knows what they'll do next? While I'm encouraged that they followed the good example, there's no guarantee that this issue is settled. Tweens sometimes act like a school fish, traveling in a pack in whatever direction the group deems appropriate at that time. Instead, for a good display of young women taking a stance and actually making permanent changes when it comes to the perception of beauty, I would look to the girls who got Seventeen magazine to agree to stop airbrushing.
- "Clearly, when it comes to social media, a little guidance goes a long way," Becker wrote. I couldn't agree more and would take that a step further to say "a lot of guidance goes even farther." This is a great example of why tweens don't have a lot of privileges in our society. We don't let them drink, drive or vote. Why? Because their brains are not yet fully formed in a way that allows them to be good decision makers. So why in the world would expect them to make good decisions when given unfettered access to the internet? Becker says that parent should be "checking our kids' news feeds to see what they are viewing, scrolling through their profiles to see what they're posting, investigating the people who want to follow them, finding out who they've given their password to and monitoring all of their accounts." Yes. And also, duh.
- Follow the rules. Instagram requires users be 13 years old to have an account. Same for Facebook, Snapchat, etc. Why are parents then permitting their 7 and 10 year-olds to have such accounts? Becker and others argue that kids will do it anyway. It's not okay to give them alcohol because they will do it anyway. Why, then, is it okay to give them these accounts which can be dangerous? (If you don't believe that they're dangerous, read this, or read the news.) That doesn't mean that you aren't aware of their possible usage and that you don't track, but I see no reason to enable breaking the rules.
- BE A PARENT. I think that's the conclusion Becker ultimately comes to, but she starts by saying "I think I did and well... kind of, sort of" tell her children that they should never post a picture that will hurt, embarrass or make someone feel left out. That conversation absolutely should be had before a child has a phone or a social media account and you should both be clear on it. There's no "sort of" when it comes to good parenting. Talk to your kids. Make your views and values known. As Becker points out, tweens and teens will likely post items parents will have no idea about. And as we've seen with Snapchat and beyond, there will always be some new technology taking over and parents will be struggling to keep up. You cannot be everywhere online at all times. But you can be in their heads. Your tweens are good kids and while every single decision will not always be a good one, they can hear your voice telling them what you think in their head.
Here are prior Tween Us posts in which you may be interested:
- Snapchat: Tweens, teens love it while parents have concerns
- Where there's a will, there's a social network: Instagram is the new Facebook for tweens and teens
- Online predators can be anywhere: man charged with soliciting 12 year-old for sex in my town
- Questions to ask before getting your tween a cell phone
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