I’m no expert.
It felt important to officially establish that up front, since I’m about to address something that all parents are either dealing with, or will deal with, at some point in their parenting careers. Social Media. It’s everywhere. Between Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other avenues I’m not cool enough to fully understand (I’m talking to you Snapchat), we can instantly share whatever is on our minds and the world can quickly digest it before their morning coffee.
When my daughter was born, I had to painfully upload all of her pictures – taken on an actual camera – to a photo site that I could share with friends and family. Today, I can snap a picture on my phone, click a button, add some filters, and within seconds post it to each social media account. That world of instant information is the world our kids are growing up in, and as my daughter prepares to start Middle School in the Fall, it’s no surprise that we’ve had multiple conversations about opening an Instagram or Facebook account.
Back to me not being an expert… When is your child ready for social media? Like most things in parenting there aren’t hard and fast rules. As parents, we have to know our children, make the best decisions we can, and hope and pray we’ve taught them to make good choices on their own. That’s why I’m not writing a post on when to let your children get their own Instagram account or how to monitor their “friends” once you take that step. Instead, this is a letter to my daughter who in less than a month will begin the crazy, awkward journey we call Middle School and why I’m hesitant to add social media into that journey.
Remember that day a few months back? We were driving home and you asked me if you could open up an Instagram account, and I gave you a very firm, “no.” You rolled your eyes like only kids your age can when their parents are being particularly annoying. You fussed and complained about all of your friends having accounts. You reminded me that you aren’t a baby anymore but getting ready to start Middle School.
My response was, to get ready to not be allowed to do things your friends are allowed to do. Although it was getting dark, I know you rolled your eyes again and probably had some choice words for me in your head. Trust me. I get it. I’ve rolled my eyes at my mother a few times in my life, and I understand how frustrating it can be when it seems as if parents are being overly cautious or not trusting your judgement. Do you want to know the truth?
It’s not you, it’s me.
You’re growing up, and yes, you make good decisions. You’re sometimes mature beyond your years, and I’m proud of who you are becoming. It’s me. I’m not ready for you to enter the world of Facebook status updates and Instagram picture sharing. Currently, you are self assured and confident in who you are. The opinions of others aren’t important to you and you live your life the way you want to live it within the boundaries your father and I have established. As mature as you are, I’m worried the world of social media will change that.
One day, you’ll be scrolling through your feed and stumble upon a picture of your friends having fun. You’ll suddenly realize you weren’t included and although you have no idea when that even occurred or the circumstances surrounding it, you’ll wonder if they no longer like you. Your feelings will get hurt. I know this will happen because it happens to adults. Too much insight into the lives of others can stir up all sorts of emotions – envy, insecurity, anger. I don’t want that for you. I want you to live your relationships in person for now.
I’m also a little greedy. I still have some of your attention. Sure, there’s Minecraft and your favorite television shows that take up some of your time, but trust me. You haven’t known what it means to have your time sucked away until you enter the world of social media. There are hours of pictures, comments on pictures, status updates and likes of those updates to peruse and just when you think you’re done, new updates are coming. Before you know it, an hour is gone. I still want you to come downstairs and sit with me because you’re bored. Once you have a social media account, there will always be something to fill your time. If it’s not me you’re filling your time with, I want you to keep reading the giant books you love to get lost in. Not looking at endless selfies.
I know we’ll have this conversation again as the school year begins, and I promise to be fair. We’ll take baby steps as we enter into the social media world. When I do say yes, remember these things:
The Internet is forever – Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Yes, you can hit delete or edit but trust me, it was seen by someone and it can be found.
Don’t let the comfort of being behind a computer make you bolder than you should be. Just like we’ve always told you, your actions have consequences, and in the world of social media, the same rule applies – Treat people with respect and dignity. Treat them the way you would want to be treated.
Things aren’t always what they seem – Be confident in your true friendships and not what you see online. Don’t make assumptions. Learn early on that friendships ebb and flow and don’t be so quick to get your feelings hurt. You’ll know who your true friends are and if they make mistakes, forgive them. They are trying to navigate this crazy world just like you.
Be smart – Not all people are good. We’ve taught you that. Use your instincts. You wouldn’t let strangers into our house, so don’t let them into your social media circles.
Finally, you should know. I’ll be a required friend on any and all accounts. If you delete me, the account goes away. I know I said there are sites I’m not cool enough to understand. I’ll still join. And don’t think you can get around me by adding something cute to your user name. Social media might not have been a thing when I was growing up, but I knew all the tricks and ways of getting around my parent’s watchful eyes (sorry Mom). You have met your match.