Back to school this year brings a new set of questions to our home, primarily because our daughter begins middle school.
While our son navigated the waters successfully, new challenges face this new student ... well, her parents anyway.
Here’s the dilemma: Our sixth grade daughter is a preteen, not quite a teen, and yet feeling those pressures come her way. The pressures on boys and girls are different. The social pressures for our son were definitely different, mostly because he didn’t really care. In fact, that hasn’t really changed.
The social landscape for our daughter is much more difficult to manage, especially in the social media arena. She does not have Instagram, but most of her friends do. The trouble is, like her friends, she is 11. But Instagram has a terms of service agreement says 13 is the minimum age. Thus we have a choice to make. Do we let her get an Instagram account? If so, why?
On the surface it seems like a fairly cut and dry decision. Instagram says 13. Socially speaking, her friends are connecting and communicating here. She is not part of that conversation.
Feeling socially isolated is hard at any age, but try to remember when you started middle or junior high school. As parents, we decided that we would allow her to have an account. Here is why: By doing so now, with a set of family standards, as parents, we have a better ability to teach her good and safe habits.
Our family standards hold all of us accountable for good social media etiquette. Here are a few topics we included in our discussion of standards:
• What is appropriate to post about self, friends and family?
• How much personal information does our account reveal about us?
• How much time is acceptable to spend staring into screens (whether phone, tablet, TV, etc)?
• What types of friend requests do we accept?
• What happens if someone or something makes us uncomfortable, such as bullying?
Not every family will make the same choice we have, and the intention of this article is not to suggest that you should.
Regardless of when your children become social media users, we should teach them certain standards, ones that we model as well. This was our choice. I’d love to hear comments about how you are making this decision or standards that your family implements.
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.