Part of parenting involves listening. There is no handbook.
The first kid may be the guinea pig, but a second or third child offers all sorts of new situations. As such, I have learned to be a pretty good listener.
Since my last column about allowing my 11-year-old to create an Instagram account, I have done far more listening about this topic. To recap: I decided that I had a great teaching opportunity in front of me regarding responsible use of social media. Seeing as I am living the moment, as many of you are, I shared the decision and what I thought the benefits would be. After a number of reader comments and emails, I was faced with rethinking the decision, which thankfully had not been communicated to the 11 year old.
Here is where I landed: For those who suggested I was teaching my daughter to lie about her age, you are right. Why teach one lesson explicitly and another one implicitly that is equally problematic.
For those who agreed that it was a great opportunity, I had to determine how to take advantage without compromising other beliefs. Our children are all growing up faster than we want. Protecting them is a primary concern.
Teaching them how to navigate a digital landscape that we are not certain or confident in is equally difficult. Merging those two issues is critical because, at some point, we have to trust that we have taught them the right things and that they will be able to make good choices.
With that in mind, here is the solution for our family. We have a family Instagram account. It clearly states that Mom, Dad, “Son” and “Daughter” manage it.
There may not be much connecting with particular sets of friends or peers but, over the next two years, she will learn a lot about what is appropriate to post, security settings, accepting friend requests, and how people might respond to her posts. I imagine that there will be frustrations and obstacles along the way. I also expect that there will be some very creative photos. We shall see as the journey continues.
How would you use a family account to teach your children?
Brian Foreman, a Raleigh dad of two, is a social media educator. Go to his website for more information about his book "How to be Social Media Parents." Find him here monthly on Go Ask Mom.