…and why I’m still saying No (for now)
Full disclosure about how we came here… my daughter installed Instagram when she was 12 without our consent, created an account and started using it. My wife did check up on her iPod at the time from time to time so by chance found the app and asked me what it was all about. I applied some of the common sense I’ve used in my life online: don’t post anything inappropriate, be respectful online, cyberbullying and made sure I follow her. We’ve also continued to have open conversations on her activities online (it’s not always easy as she’s just about to turn 13…aka I know everything so leave me alone!)
Now, my son has been asking for an account of his own for about 6 months, partly due to my daughter having an account but also as more and more of his (same age) friends are on there too. So I asked him last week what were the reasons that made he feel like he needed to be on there… I didn’t edit these, they are as he explained these to me:
- my friends ask if I’m on Instagram and when I say no they tell me I suck.
- some of my friends share moments like camping and vacation trips so I’d like to see what my friends are up to.
- if I’m somewhere I want to share it so my friends can see my activities.
- But I don’t plan to do selfies…
I’ve previously mentioned that he hadn’t given me solid reasons outside of “I just want one…”. I’m glad he shared the following as now I can somewhat digest what he’s saying. My thoughts on his points above are:
- he wants to belong – many of his friends are doing this “new” thing so being part of it is important to him (the sense of belonging is also true for anything in life, for kids growing up and even adults!).
- he wants to stay connected with his friends he makes not just in school but also in his activities like his hockey buddies he doesn’t attend the same school with but has built solid friendships with.
- he wants to reciprocate and show cool things he’s experiencing with his friends and with likes and comments get some validation of what he’s doing is acceptable/cool and something to chat about when they meet up again.
- I’ll believe this one when I don’t see it!
For parents, there are a couple of catches you should know about when your child wants to join a social network and a couple of tips. It’s not matter of if but a matter of when and the better equipped you are about these tools that many children use to communicate, the better impact you can have in your child enjoying the positive side of these social networks!
- Age consent – the majority of social networks have a minimum age of 13 years old in order to sign up and use.
- Security/Privacy settings – I’d recommend you research the security settings for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and others to make sure you can lock down their account as much as possible against any non-friend requests, weirdos online, etc.
- Follow/Interact with your child – Most parents do have an account in one of the above social networks so be transparent and follow your child – this forms part of the communication we need to have as our kids grow up.
- Limit time spent – you can either use an app like Boomerang to lock certain apps to certain times of day (ie: Instagram only works between 6-7pm week days) and/or limit internet usage time by leveraging the scheduled access available in most of today’s home routers.
To wrap up, I’m currently taking this time to continue educating my son (and my daughter) on how to best use social networks and I’m also making sure he doesn’t get too down when a friend bugs him about not being part of Instagram – this is a normal course of life and even I still experience the occasional mention of “oh you’re not on that yet?”