I follow my daughter on Instagram and she's mortified.

I follow my daughter on Instagram and she's mortified.
Don't folllow me.

If you are not familiar with Instagram, either you live in a cave or you do not have tweens in your life.  According to the official Instagram website,” it’s a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos with friends and family.”  How cool is that?  It’s a harmless alternative for tweens other than joining Facebook, right?  WRONG!

Instagram is social networking for tweens!  The Dean of Parents needs to report to the Dean of Parents, immediately.

When other parents ask me if I allow my kids to have a Facebook account,   I haughtily reply, “Absolutely not.   We do not allow them to social network because they aren't ready to handle it.”  Who in the hell am I fooling?  Since joining Instagram,  I might as well allow my tweenager  to aimlessly roam alone up and down Chicago's 79th Street—or how about a field trip to the Englewood neighborhood---greeting friendly strangers with codenames like BIGBOY, DASEXY, HAWTGURL, and DUYUWANNA?

I decided to join.  “Friend me on Instagram!”, I excitedly shouted to my tween.  She gave me her flavorful tween-toned response with,  “umm, you have FOLLOWERS on Instagram—not FRIENDS.”     I'm proud of my codename, THECOOLESTBREEZE.  I was forced to elevate my swagger status once I discovered COOLBREEZE was already taken.    For a while, it was cute peeking at her little tween girlfriends posting photos of cupcakes, jewelry, shoes, and fun group photos of shopping mall excursions.   But after returning to peeking after a brief hiatus, her followers magically grew from 7 to 307!  Why are there photos of her in the bathroom mirror?  Who in the heck are LUSCIOUSONE and NINJAMAN?  And why are you asking people “follow me”.   And since when did COVERGIRL become your best friend?  Instead of liking a photo of a kid I’d never met with the photo caption that read “BESTIE” I commented: the word “Friend” is a special word reserved for those who earn it so be careful not to give it away to anybody. 

My tween instantly became mortified.  [Insert wicked horror-themed movie laugh here] I don’t give a damn about the tween's mortification on this issue.  And folks, please know that I’m grateful she isn’t posting photos of her breast or photos with illegal substances committing  illegal acts, which prompted us to take advantage of this teachable moment to avoid the aforementioned bullshit and discuss the seriousness and responsibility that comes with having a cell phone.  Yeah, we admit opening the door to exciting adventures when we purchased that damn phone in the first place.  But we had to provide a few ground rules.  Here they are:

  • No cell phone use after  9:00 pm.
  • Phone will not be charged overnight in your bedroom.
  • Instagramming on weekends only.
  • We will monitor your  use.  If you don't like feeling mortified, we’ll gladly return the IPhone.  (What were we  thinking for buying our kid an Iphone is a future blog topic)
  • Keep it classy.  Your Instagram photos can be viewed by  anyone—the girl you “forgot” to invite to your party, the Spelman College admissions officer, and my sorority sisters.
  • Keep it classy #2.  Tone is difficult to read through text messaging or Instagram comments.
  • If someone posts a  questionable photo, block the Instagram user.   Pornography  charges are slapped on people storing unquestionable images in their cell phones.
  • When your parents send you a text, we expect an immediate reply—or else we’ll assume you are dead.
  • If we find photos you've posted, on Instagram, during the timeframe we waited to receive a text from you to get a ride home, start praying that we are dead.
  • The cell phone originated with a cool app that actually allows you to call your parents.  Use it.
  • If you are going to follow  Nikki on Instagram, try having a friendly conversation with her the next time you see her in the hallway at school.
  • No cell phones while with family or friends.  We were born with the privilege and ability to verbally communicate.
  • It is not cool to beg  others to “follow me”.  Be yourself  and the rest will follow.

Please share your ground rules for monitoring your tweens cell phone usage.  We could all use a little help in this area.


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  • Great advice! I have a tween that has been bugging me to get her a phone and I've been hesitant. Your blog confirmed that I need to take a very cautious approach. From one mama to another, thanks!

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    In reply to Tara Scalzo:

    Hi Tara! Thanks for the compliment! I'm sure your tween is awesome 99.9 percent of the time! We just have to be cautious because we didn't grow up with this stuff! I couldn't imagine being in high school with a cell phone, instagram, facebook...it would be HORRIBLE! The one great feature on the iphone is the GPS...you can track 'em. My friend reminded me of that when I questioned my parenting when even buying one. But if you have AT&T, you can get the old versions for 99 cents!! Good luck and I'm sure she ROCKS! :)

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    Your strong stance is appreciated! Parenting in the digital age is getting more complicated by minute. We've created the MamaBear App to help parents get in the know with their children's lives without having to spend so much time checking in on them. It gives parents a chance to even offer the sound advice you've given to your daughter. Instagram integration is on deck releasing in a few weeks. Check it out. Would love to know what you thinking of parents using a tool like the MamaBear App.

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    In reply to Robyn Spoto:

    Robyn! Thank you for sharing! I certainly will check it out!! That is so cool! Congratulations and much success!

  • I really like your rules! I did a series on whether or not get a tween a cell phone on Tween Us on Chicago Now over the summer. http://www.chicagonow.com/tween-us/tweens-cell-phones/
    In the end, we decided that our tween wasn't ready and it wasn't a "need" for her yet, though we know that it will be at some point, and probably sooner rather than later. I like the cell phones that have parent controls, including on/off ability, and think we'll go for those. I saw online a mom who has a basket that she has kids put their phones in when they are at home or visiting and a tag with the reminder to take advantage of face time with the awesome people present.

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    In reply to Shannan Younger:

    Thank you Shannan!! I hope to meet you one day!! I LIKE THAT BASKET IDEA!! Check out http://www.yauzzle.com/, a website for "stuff parents want to know", especially about tweens. And why am I the last to know about cell phones with parent controls! LOL! I actually forgot to include the part about how many of my daughter's "followers" requested to follow ME without even knowing that I'm a MOTHER!! As parents of tweens, we have to focus and concentrate! Thanks again for the compliment. That means so much.

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    I am of the same opinion as you do, if you consider that the man can say the same respect as you,,,.,.

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    We need to hear this message. I am constantly amazed at people's lack of understanding of appropriate behavior with social media. Thanks for the post.

  • Hi guys. I'm a teen myself and I just wanted to let you know that all being as close minded as you are is going to do is make your daughter pull away. My mother and I are very close, but I've seen it happen with my friends. Even the little things will build up resentment. We're teens. We're sensitive. Public humiliation (And yes instagram counts as digitally public) is never a solution to any problem. Give your daughter just a little more leeway and you'll see how responsible she probably is. Most teens aren't BAD kids. It's not us versus you. Pull back a little and see what happens.

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