I posted a picture of my child on Facebook and her reaction to the comments showed me that she is nowhere near ready for her own social media accounts. My sensitive tween has a bit of maturing to do before she puts her life out there on social networking sites for the world to see and judge.
I want my daughter to be more comfortable with herself , and I want her to be very clear that self worth does not come from a number of likes, and that there will always be negative comments out there.
Monday morning, my tween and her stepfather both had on Michigan sweatshirts because the University of Michigan Wolverines were playing that night in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game. Although I'm a Notre Dame fan, my husband is a Michigan grad and my child has made it clear she's a Michigan fan, and we were all excited for the big game. I took a picture of the two of them and my tween said I should post it on Facebook. As I've mentioned, she has the right to say whether any photo that I take of her can or should be posted online. I happily posted the photo with the comment, "My peeps are excited for tonight's game."
Not everyone in my news feed was happy to see Wolverine gear, even on my beautiful daughter. (C'mon, I'm her mom, of course I'm biased.)
The Facebook comments ranged from "ugh" and "gross" to "that makes my eyes hurt." My tween asked how many "likes" her photo had gotten and when I checked, she saw the comments. She expressed mock outrage but then said sadly, "I thought we were friends."
Her feelings were hurt.
We talked about how no one intended to hurt her feelings, that the adults were not making the comments toward her or if they even knew that she would see them, and most importantly that the comments were about the school and not about her. She seemed to get it, but still seemed bummed.
There were nice comments, too, but she didn't pay as much attention to those as she did to the nice comments. That's an issue for adults, too - just ask a blogger who got 20 "likes" and one nasty comment. That negative comment has a bigger impact. And who isn't happy when a post or a photo gets a lot of likes on Facebook? Many bloggers I know say that they get paid in "likes." But those are grown adults. I want my kid to be a bit older and more secure in who she is before she lets Facebook weigh in.
Because she's 10, and she lacks the social savvy and awareness to truly understand that the comments were not meant as criticisms of her. Social media doesn't offer a lot of space for explanation, but there is plenty of room for people to assume the worst. My kid is sensitive. Some days I myself wonder if I am mature enough or too sensitive for Facebook. But putting yourself or your child is inviting people to opine on your life, to "like" by button or comment or to criticize.
While I'm sorry that I exposed her to vitriol that Michigan can inspire, it did at least reinforce to me that she is nowhere near socially savvy or thick-skinned enough to handle a Facebook account. The idea of her being a part of the Instagram beauty pageants makes me shudder. If comments by friends who did not like her sweatshirt impacted her, I can only image the damage done to her self-esteem if she was posting pictures of herself to be judged.
Children, and yes, tweens are in fact very much still children, need to figure out who they are and how they feel about themselves before they subject themselves to judgment on the internet
Each child is different, they mature at different rates. I think it will be years until she's ready. Until then, I'll keep her and her Michigan allegiance off Facebook and I will do a better job of sheltering her from comments.
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