My daughter hopped on Instagram not too long after she turned 13, the required age for users to have an Instagram account. (Yes, I am the
mean rule-following mom who made her wait, and you can read why here.)
While we check in with her regularly about her account and can see what she posts, I thought a more thorough, formal check in was appropriate after approximately three months. Quarterly reports seem to work in the business world, so I thought I'd try the approach here.
I wanted to keep the focus on the positive and asked about what her favorite aspects of having an account are as well as whether or not she had learned anything from the experience. Like most teens, she's a huge fan of Instagram and having an account has been a positive from her perspective.
Here are the lessons my teen has learned after using Instagram for three months.
- Proper spelling and proof reading matters.
It's not like her mom the writer and editor has been singing this song for most of her life. Nope, not at all. But of course your mom is going to love you no matter how you spell words. Your peers and people you hope to impress are a different story. And it is embarrassing when you put something out into the world with an error.
While typing on a smartphone makes mistakes easy, if not inevitable, the fact that she's paying closer attention and sees value in avoiding errors thrills me to pieces.
- Know how to edit before you post anything.
See above on inevitable mistakes. Turns out that in one of her earlier posts, she tagged someone that she thought was her bonus dad. Unfortunately, she misspelled his name and tagged someone else. She wasn't sure how to do correct it and panicked.
Editing in Instagram is easy, but when you're brand new to an app, it can be a little confusing. Take the time to review with kids how to edit and also how to delete posts, particularly in Twitter, where tweets cannot be edited.
Related lesson: Be careful when tagging people.
- Nature is beautiful.
I was surprised that this was one of the first lessons my kid offered up, but she's right. Nature is beautiful, and photography in general encourages you to consider the world around you and really see your surroundings. She said that she appreciated that Instagram motivated her to take the time to notice that there's a lot of beauty around her. Well, actually she said, "A lot of things that seemed just kinda 'meh' before are actually really pretty when you take the time to look closely at them."
But if she's pausing a second to take it in, and seeing her photos allows me to see her world through her eyes, I think those are both good things.
Of course, she and the vast majority of teens don't use Instagram solely as a tribute to the natural world. There's a whole lot of communication that goes on via Instagram, particularly in the comments. Be sure to check those if you are monitoring your child's account.
- Social media can make it easier to to connect with people.
While this may seem obvious, I forgot how amazing it felt to be able to connect with people from all parts of my life with a few clicks when I first joined social media. She's in touch with classmates from where we used to live a few years ago, friends who have moved away.
The connections she told me about, though, aren't just with kids who don't live near her. She's found Instagram to be a way to connect with classmates. She said that some of them have discovered that they have more in common than they realized by checking out each others' accounts.
While I see this generally as a positive, I still stand by the idea that new users of social media still in their early teens should only be friends online with people that are their friends in real life. I can see how that would change given a unique interest, but for now, it's still the rule in our house.
We had a good conversation about relationships, online and offline and overlapping, and I don't think that there are any answers, but in the world of the junior high lunchroom, anything that leads to conversation with someone outside of your usual lunch table is probably not a bad thing, either.
- Limits are necessary.
It's possible that my kid didn't jump right in with this one, but Instagram can be a rabbit hole that's hard to climb out of, for adults and especially for kids. I've noticed that my teen has self-imposed limits, including that she posts no more than a few times a week, which is less frequently than I do. Hmmmm...
Social media, like everything on the internet, is neither all good nor all bad, and figuring out social media for the first time with my teen has definitely a family work in process. It's not always easy, and it definitely takes time, but I'm gratified to know that she's learning a bit as she goes.
Check back later this week to see what I have learned in these same first three months.
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