I’ve been social on the Internet since before the days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat…and all of the other social media platform. It was me and my laptop and a blog I set up for free, writing my feelings on the Internet and sharing stories with others that allowed us to connect over “Me Too.”
The stories I shared at the time were mostly about my kids. The witching hour before bedtime, major milestones (First Day of School! First Day of School!) and adventures we went on as a family. As they got older, the stories about them have waned, because while venting about a toddler having a meltdown in public is commonplace, talking about personal issues that their friends can Google just isn’t an option in our house. If I do write about them, it gets their stamp of approval before I hit “Publish.”
As they’ve gotten older, they’ve acquired iPods and in the case of our oldest, an iPhone. They are all on Instagram and love to share photos with their family and friends, and see what everyone in their lives are up to. Many of my eldest’s friends follow me on Instagram and while it horrifies him that his friends think I’m ‘So cool!’, I tell him it’s better than me being an embarrassment to him.
We have set some boundaries on their use of social media, because it’s The Internet. Need I say more? Here’s how it rolls in our house:
Make their accounts private
They have to accept friend requests, and if it’s someone they don’t know, they will check with me to see if it’s a friend of mine. (It usually is.)
Talk about who fills their feed
My kids do Instagram like I did blogging back in the day. You follow your friends, and then you check who they’re following (or linking to, as it were), and you find new people to follow. That’s all fine and good until my nine-year-old daughter clicks a few times and ends up on beauty sites that are far beyond her maturity. We’ve explained that what fills your eyes and mind also fills your heart, so be careful about what you use to fill yourself.
Check who they’re actually following
Our kids leave their iDevices charging in the living room overnight. My husband and I will scroll through the accounts they follow and unfollow any we think aren’t quite age appropriate. No fanfare, just a quiet delete. If we ever come across any that are not even close to any kind of appropriate, we’ll sit down with them and talk with them about it.
Know their passwords
Obviously. We have one that we use as a family for many things, and that’s what they all use. There are no other options.
Teach them about the permanency of the Internet
They’ve yet to join Snapchat, but now with Instagram’s new Stories feature, they’ve played with the idea of posting things that “only last 24-hours.” That last part is in quotes, because that is nowhere near reality. I’ve told them a few stories of social media posts gone bad and then put it in terms they understand. There are bullies in life who can and will use whatever they can to put you down in a lame attempt to lift themselves up, and they don’t need to have those things handed to them on an iPlatter.