Kids and social Media: what’s the best way?
Thank God I grew up before social media existed.
I remember when Facebook was born. It was right after I graduated from Mississippi State University, somewhere around 2005. Facebook started as just a college thing, and all of my friends who were still in undergrad were ranting and raving about this new website where you could create a profile and connect with people in school.
I also remember what a task it was then to actually use your Facebook page! Long before camera phones and the Facebook app, it took about an hour to post pictures. I would sit in my one-bedroom apartment, and sift through actual hardcopy photos that I wanted to post. Then I would scan them on my scanner, upload them to my computer one by one, and post them to my profile. Those awful, blurry photos!
Now, social media is soooo easy and accessible that it is a nonnegotiable (and super addictive) part of our everyday lives. In only a few seconds, you can take a picture and post it to multiple social media pages. You can tag your location and your friends faster than you can share this info in a conversation.
Plus, you don’t even have to search for people you know – social media does that for you too!
I work in a high school where students are allowed to use their phones at liberty. At any moment, you can walk down the hall or in a classroom and see kids on Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat – boy do teenagers love SnapChat! As an educator, I hate that they are allowed to have such a distraction at their finger tips all day long. Call me old-fashioned, but I just believe that kids should focus on their academic work while at school. They can snap and chat before school, during lunch, and after school.
So the big question is: What rules will I have for my own children’s social media? Right now my kiddos are almost nine, three, and three. So the answer is easy – No social media for you, you, or you.
But, I know its coming soon. My oldest will be a fourth grader next year and he has asked me more than once if he can have an Instagram, YouTube, or Musically page. My answer? No, no, and no.
I think he is definitely too young for Instagram and YouTube, and I don’t even know what Musically is. I had to explain that it is not him that I worry about (half-truth), but all the unknowns that he may have access to, and that may have access to him, on these sites. Have you seen some of the vile, vulgar, and violent things people post on Instagram?!
Whenever I do allow him to enter the world of social media, here is what I know for sure:
- His page must be private, and he can only approve real friends and followers that he actually knows in real life.
- He cannot post his every move (or our every move). This is a rule I abide by too, with my own social media pages. None of that “we are here right now” or “tag your current location” stuff. I don’t want people to know when we are home, or when we are away. Enjoy the moments and post the pictures later.
- The most important rule is that mom and dad must follow him so that we can see his posts. We need to be able to see what he’s showing and telling on the world wide web… I know some parents that go a step further and make their children share their logins and passwords too. I’m not totally sold on that, but I am also definitely not opposed to it.
So when should kids be allowed to have their own social media? I think somewhere around sixth grade is the best age. Sixth graders are still young enough for parents to be heavily involved in their social media activity, but also old enough where they can be given enough space to show their social media responsibility. The key is to provide kids with rules and guidelines, explain the importance of each, and then allow them to apply what they’ve learned – all under the careful, protective eye of their parents.
About the Author
Ashleigh Norman is a Mississippi mom of three, educator, and wife. She enjoys writing, crafting, and bargain shopping, but her absolute greatest enjoyment and accomplishment is being a MOM! Follow Ashleigh on her blog at www.ontheatrain.com.
For more about keep you and your loved ones safe online, check out our article on avoiding catfishing online.