Telling your child ‘no’ to social media doesn’t make you a bad parent… or does it?
As parents, we are encountering things we never thought imaginable as kids. Wouldn’t it have been cool to have a conversation in pictures sent via your phone?? Or never have mom or dad get lost because you had a GPS in your car? How about as a teenager, you wouldn’t have to worry about your boyfriend or girlfriend’s dad picking up the phone when you called?
In this day and age, kids don’t know what all of that is like. I remember when we got cable. And a microwave. And a VCR. I remember my first CD (Ace of Base’s “The Sign”). Who knows what “firsts” kids these days will experience.
With all these “firsts” comes the hard part – parenting kids through them. Yes, when I got my first CD and CD player I wanted to listen to it 24/7 but mom said no. Now when kids get their first tablets/iPod Touch/smartphones, we as parents have to be even MORE careful and dutiful about saying no. Especially when it comes to social media.
Did you know the age minimum for the major social media networks is 13? Now, how many kids under 13 years old do you know on Facebook? How about Instagram? SnapChat? I know more than I care to admit. I understand that every parent is different. Some are more open to letting their kids try things out, some are more reserved. I’m going to say this once and move on because I know I could ignite a huge debate, but by allowing your under 13 year old to have a social media account shows them it’s okay to lie. You have to put in their birthdate to activate an account and if you put their real birthdate you would not be allowed to open an account. Showing your child it’s okay to fudge their age to get something is not right. There, I said it. Let’s move on.
I have an almost 10 year old who will be starting 4th grade in the fall. She has friends on Kik, SnapChat, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. They are all 9 years old. This Spring, we allowed her to get an iPod Touch with the money she had saved up. We set up a few rules – I got to set everything up so I could place the proper restrictions and passwords, it always goes on the kitchen counter at night and her dad and I get to look through her phone at anytime for any reason. I also told her upfront that social media was not a conversation to be had until she was 13.
If she had asked for me to set up social media accounts, I would have said no. She would have thrown that pre-tween fit and said I was a bad mom, but you know what? I would have loved it. Sometimes doing the right thing as a parent means being the bad parent. Saying no to social media for your child is only for their benefit. Here are 5 reasons why –
1. You are protecting them from strangers. Even with all the internet-nanny programs and account restrictions you can have, that still wouldn’t stop a predator from seeking out your child. Unfortunately my husband, who is a state prosecuting attorney, has had cases of this.
2. You are protecting them from cyber-bullying. Being a tween/teen is hard enough offline, they don’t need the burden of the online bullying to hurt their still-building self-esteem.
3. They post content without thinking, especially pictures. Some of this content may hurt them (or haunt them) on down the road and/or hurt a friend’s feelings. Under 13 year olds are not mature enough to understand the long-term ramifications of posting hurtful content.
4. They have their whole life to use social media. Kids are only kids for so long. Let them be that. Let 9 year olds ride around on bikes. Let 10 year old boys play baseball or football. Encourage your kids to be active and social – without an electronic device.
5. Not using social media to communicate at this age allows them to be taught the proper way to carry a conversation with others. I know teens who could use a lesson in that. With a generation that is texting the person next to them instead of talking or SnapChatting pictures instead of enjoying an event, the lesson of how to hold a proper conversation is being lost. Not to mention their writing – but that’s another topic for another day.