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Social Media Dad: Should tweens be on Instagram?

Posted August 12, 2014

Brian Foreman, social media educator, b4manconsulting.com

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.

9 Comments

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  • Stacie Hagwood Aug 13, 2014
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    There is a reason for Instagram (and Facebook) being 13. Eleven year olds are not mature enough (and frankly, neither are most 13 yos.) and by allowing her to obtain an account, you have just allowed her to lie about her age, as well. Perhaps it won't bother you when she gets the fake ID, either. After all, there is so much social pressure, right?

    My girls did not get accounts until they could honestly say they were 13. They didn't get phones until they were in high school because prior to that they were never without an adult somewhere nearby.

    I won't say you are being a bad parent (not to your face, anyway) but you have blown a great opportunity to teach delayed gratification, which is sorely lacking in our young people.

    However, I anticipate that you'll have plenty of opportunity to commiserate with her about how mean other girls can be on social media.

    Good luck.

  • rushbot Aug 13, 2014

    no.....

  • ckinnc Aug 13, 2014

    You just taught her that it's ok to lie to get her way.
    Awesome.
    Instead, you could've taught her about why those laws are in place, why it's important to abide by laws, or even what we as citizens can do to shape future laws.
    To each their own.

  • luvtoshag Aug 13, 2014

    My daughter is starting middle school this year. She has an Instagram account that I have the password to. So I see everything that she posts and those that she follows posts. I also see comments on her posts. Her account is set to private so she has to approve any requests for followers, which I also see. If I don't think they should follow her, she or I will deny the request. I also get all of her texts in and out from her Ipad on my Iphone. It may make her think twice about sending something she shouldn't or posting something she shouldn't.

  • lucasd06 Aug 13, 2014

    Going to agree with the rest of the comments on the board here. It's a good thing to have family expectations and open communication, but setting a precedent for breaking rules is never a good thing. My daughter is less than a year old but I've already been debating these same issues. By the time my daughter is the age of yours, Instagram and Facebook will be old news, but the same issues will be facing my daughter in more current applications.

  • sand Aug 13, 2014

    Sorry, in my last comment I meant , 'I have a teenage daughter'.

  • sand Aug 13, 2014

    In the process of teaching her how to safely use Instagram, you taught her to lie about her age. You taught her that its ok to do something wrong if all her friends are doing it. I am a teenage mom. My conclusion is no matter how much you try to teach your kid and how much you talk to them, they are ultimately influenced by friends and give in to peer pressure. The only solution is to continously monitor them. Kids will give you all kinds of reasons why they NEED and deserve certain things but its the parent's job to put their foot down and decide whats best.

  • moppie Aug 13, 2014

    My 13 year old son wanted an Instagram account, and after some research and talking with other moms, I decided not to let him have one. He has an active email account, and uses Google Plus as well. My concern was not what my son was posting, but what other people could post and attach to his pictures.

  • JAT Aug 13, 2014

    Nope - no way. And you've just showed her that it's OK to break the rules if you don't like them. Just because all her friends are doing it does not mean she has to, needs to or should.