Kids and Social Media: Who knows what they’re seeing?

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January 10, 2018 by themommahen



I’m gonna Momma Hen you all for a minute with a gentle reminder that giving kids access to social media accounts — whether theirs or yours, whether they’re “old enough” or not — without any guidance or oversight is not so different from letting your kid drive a car on the highway without any training. The damage may not be physical, and with a little luck there wont be any damage at all, but…images seen cannot be unseen, words said cannot be unsaid, things heard cannot be unheard.

H2, my 9 year old 4th grader, asked me if I have an Instagram account. When I told him yes, he very seriously informed me that I need to be careful because one of his friends, who is the same age, told him about some of the stuff they had seen on Insta, and (his words) “it’s very inappropriate.” He went on to tell me that another friend then told him about some things a family member (tween/teen) had put on Insta, which was also “very inappropriate, and I don’t even want to say it.” Now, these inappropriate things could be cuss words, or butt jokes, or potty humor. Or it could be something bigger and more sinister. Who knows? But that’s the point, right? Who knows?
Who. Knows?
This blog has never been about telling others how to parent or to pass judgment on parenting decisions made by others. But as a communicator, both by nature and training, I urge you to not blindly turn over your phone and social media accounts to your kids. If you let them use and access your accounts, or sign up for their own whether underage or of age, know what they’re seeing and how they’re using it. Give them some insight into how to use it. And how and when to walk away.
Learn the apps that they’re using, at least enough to know what they do. Know how to set privacy settings, location setting, how to block people, (pornish Insta accounts are everywhere) and how to check up on their activity. And if you don’t know, Google can help. Other friends’ kids can help. (They’re more likely to tell you the straight truth than they would to their own parents or your own kids would to you.)
The Husband asked me the other day why us parents today are such Helicopter Parents about communication and social media with the kids. (How many parents check their kids’ phones, accounts, have passwords, receive mirrored texts, etc.) And almost without thinking I responded, “Because we have to be. Because when I was this age, my parents at least could hear half of a phone conversation if they wanted to. But today, kids are communicating heads-down, in their rooms, with no emotions or discussion about what they’re saying, hearing and seeing.”
And yes, I know kids have said things, seen things, done things, that are “inappropriate” behind their parents’ backs forever. Finding the Playboys, smoking behind the woodshed, practicing cussing like a sailor…we can’t keep kids completely safe and the world completely child-proofed, nor should we. But we shouldn’t send them off in a car driving 60 mph on a highway without a license or training either.

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