I have a confession to make. It may surprise some of you, so sit down while you read this.
My kids don’t have social media accounts–and won’t have any social media accounts of any kind while in my home. There. I said it. That felt really good to get off my chest.
I was a young mother of 3 when the dawn of social media (as we know it today) arrived. Since that time, I’ve noticed the shift in demand for staying connected socially online. I’ve noticed the obvious benefit social media has in our daily lives, but I’ve also noticed the potential hazards it brings as well.
We’ve all read the headlines about someone being kidnapped or killed or robbed or bullied due to an online interaction. While these issues are the extreme, and most of us use our social platforms worry free, there are risks, regardless.
Social media outlets have an age requirement of 13–due to COPPA guideline. When my oldest daughter was old enough to open a social media account, my husband and I decided she wasn’t ready. This daughter is one of the most responsible and honest kids I know, but she wasn’t and isn’t ready for the responsibility that comes with social media. None of my kids will be responsible enough when they turn 13.
Does this mean I don’t trust my kids? Yes. Does this mean I’m overly strict and protective? Yup.
As far as social media goes, I’m very leery to let my kids have access for several reasons. Not only do kids face social pressure at school, but they face being bullied or harassed in their extra curricular activities, and the sad part is its the reality of being a kid. Kids are mean. Period. They’re trying to figure out how to act socially and how to fit in socially. In my home, the last thing I want to do is introduce another avenue for my kids to be bullied–or to bully others–while they’re navigating their own social identity.
Online predators love the easy access to children via social media. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the headlines, its that kids are too trusting when online interactions are concerned. It’s as if there’s a proverbial safety net behind a keyboard, but there isn’t. I taught my kids about ‘stranger danger’ when they were young–but online that teaching seems lost.
Posting photos may seem innocent enough, but images contain data that can be used to extract location- possibly putting my child in harms way. Then there’s the bad judgment photos. I’ve personally seen 13 year old’s post images online that were far too provocative, making them targets for all sorts of harassment online and in person.
The number of ‘likes’ does not mean anything in the real world and it shouldn’t online either, but for some reason it does. A healthy self esteem should not gained by ‘likes’ or ‘friends/followers’ or page views. I want my kids to understand that real life is only in the here and now. Real relationships are what matter most, not validation through a click of a ‘like’ button.
Isolation and jealousy on social media can be a real issue. My goal is for my kids to spend time doing real world activities that they personally enjoy–building themselves up as an individual, not spending hours and hours watching other people’s lives. We’ve all been there before, watching someone else go on vacation or buying a new car, wishing it was us instead. I want my kids to watch their own lives play out and be content with the life they have.
I’m not naive to the reality that kids hide stuff from their parents; it’s a natural part of growing up. I’m also aware that my kids can hide the fact that they have opened a social media account. That is something I’ll tackle if and when it happens. I’m just doing the best I know how in a very social media driven world. I want my kids to live in their reality just a little bit longer, and if avoiding social media for a few years helps that, I’ll take it.
About Heather Bowcutt
Heather is the is the primary author of the Kids Email blog, where she offers safety and parenting tips, for when the kids are online and off.
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