Mom, can I have an Instagram account?
I’ve heard this question more than once this year. It started when my 10-year-old son’s Sunday school teacher created a hashtag for their class and encouraged the kids to capture images of beautiful things God has created.
Seriously, Sunday school is pushing social?
I didn’t know whether to compliment the teacher for being so progressive, or scold her for forcing the Instagram conversation. I thought it a little presumptuous of the teacher to assume we were all letting our 10-year-old kids snap away and scroll on social.
So I did what I do best when I don’t have an answer. I stalled.
Let me think about it, I said.
And surprisingly, the conversation didn’t come up for several weeks.
Then he tried again, pushing the church angle, and then again citing all of the friends snagging accounts, and then again after tagging along with my husband to Washington D.C. on a trip this spring.
Each time, I said “not yet,” but I know the social media stage is coming.
I’m on social media all the time. As a professional marketer, I kind of have to be. I strive to keep current on all of the trends, and enjoy the challenge of creating content that works. But I also know social media has a dark side, and I suppose I’ve wanted to shield my son from it as long as possible.
Once we launch those accounts for him, he’ll create a digital footprint in the world. He’ll enjoy the engagement and cool tools, but he may also see nasty conversations, inappropriate images and cyber-bullying. I see it as an adult, but young teens and tweens are dishing it out in new ways.
I’ve read they can be passive aggressive, selectively tagging friends in images. They can be cruel with the comments. They can feel hurt when they see they weren’t invited to an event or party. They can get confused or jealous, and like the rest of us, suffer the inevitable FOMO.
While my son and I have had some great conversations about online safety, I’ve neglected to really frame the discussion around online kindness. I just poured through a great book written by Galit Breen and she offers some wonderful insights on navigating this space with our tweens and teens. She sets the foundation for using social for good – because it can be so, so good.
The book, Kindness Wins, provides easy and thoughtful suggestions.
Be generous with your likes.
Jump in when you see people being mean.
Never comment on people’s bodies.
If you’re on the verge of jumping into social with your kids, I’d highly recommend you check out Kindness Wins. Rather than painting a picture of “doom and gloom” as it pertains to our kids and social, she advocates for it, and advises how to use social with kindness.
I still haven’t given my son the green-light on that Instagram account, but it is coming. I’m sure there will be mistakes, but at least I feel like I’m preparing him about social – the pros and cons.
Do you have tween or teen using social media?
At what age did you allow them to get their first account?
Do you have any advice to share?