Earlier this week I shared some of the lessons my teen daughter has learned in her first few months of having an Instagram account. Turns out that she's the not the only one who did did the learning. I have also learned a few things from her first foray into social media.
1. Even 13 year-olds will still talk to you about social media.
One of the biggest arguments I see for permitting children to have social media accounts before the required ages is that parents want to still have influence over their kids when they start using social media. It seems parents think that won't happen if they follow the rules for most social networks (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) and wait until age 13.
While kids of course crave more independence as they get older, my 13 year-old has been very open to talking about her experiences and we've had some good talks about what's gone well as well as what has not. Perhaps that's because she knows that we're keeping tabs on what's going on on her phone, or because she knows that we expect to have an ongoing conversation as a family about social media usage, or because she's still in middle school, or because she doesn't mind a bit of guidance as she navigates this new world (yeah, probably not). Whatever the reason, she didn't completely shut us out.
I'm glad that we permitted an account when we did. We followed the rules, but I also feel like she's open to our suggestions and help.
2. They're watching you.
I may have known this in theory, but when my daughter's friends requested to follow me on Instagram, it gave me pause. Did I really want a bunch of eighth graders privy to every post?
Interestingly, some of my daughter's friends shared my posts with their parents who do not have Instagram accounts. I posted a photo of my husband giving me a peck on the cheek while we were on vacation and a fellow mom asked me about it, surprised I would post a photo of us kissing.
It was a good reminder to both me and my daughter to not post anything I don't want plastered across the New York Times, or my hometown paper, and to know what my boundaries are for both what you share with the world, with your kids and with your kids' friends and families. I explained to the mom that as a married adult, I felt comfortable posting a rather chaste photo of my husband expressing affection.
3. It's good to know how to use the social media so you can help your kids.
My daughter tagged a person she didn't know, thanks to a typo. She panicked and wasn't sure how to undo it, having had an account for less than a day. It was an easy fix, and she seemed grateful that I could show her how. It also set a great precedent of me being available to help her.
You should also know how to work the privacy settings and make sure your kid's account is private. On Instagram, also be sure that your kids turn off the photo map feature.
That also means that you are on the platform, which makes monitoring their account(s) easier.
4. The kids are alright.
I was worried about my sensitive daughter encountering the negativity that is inevitable on the internet. When a classmate left a less than kind comment, three things happened.
- My daughter left a succinct but firm response stating that such behavior was unnecessary and unwelcome.
- Her friends jumped in to call out the poor behavior.
- The responsible party deleted the rude post.
This all happened quickly, with relatively little drama, and they moved on. I'm not so naive as to think that all interactions will go that smoothly, but I was gratified and even a bit surprised to see how well they handled themselves.
5. They don't always go hog wild.
While my kiddo is happy to spend a good amount of time perusing the photos of others, she doesn't overdo the posting. When my kiddo took a nice photo the other day, I asked if she was planning to post it. "Nah, I posted yesterday," she said. Self-imposed limits? Whoa. Who knew? Guess you learn something new every day.
Related Post: Printable parent-child phone contract
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