To the casual observer, ours may seem a lenient social media family: Craig and I have both kept a blog of some sort since about the time Al Gore invented the Internet, and we were early adopters of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (kind of). Pinterest? Not so much, but that’s okay; one can only handle so many cyber distractions at a time.
Our kids (we have four daughters, 16, 14, 12, 11) are allowed to have Facebook accounts when they turn 13, as this is the age allowed by Facebook to have an account and we’re not proponents of teaching our kids that it is okay to lie about their age so they can be there. They also have Instagram accounts, which is kind of funny since neither of the two who have one has a phone or any kind of mobile device, so we’re all constantly logging in and out of my iPhone to see what’s what in the land of selfies and dinner selections. The girls enjoy spending time on Pinterest, but they’ve gotten a lot of fun crafts out of the deal so I’m good with that.
For each account, our girls understand that their parents have their passwords and can and will do a random check periodically, and if they’ve deleted a bunch of stuff, then they will lose access to said accounts. We’ve also guided them in lessons in avoiding narcissism and how an occasional selfie is fine, but the majority of people (tweens and teens in particular) really overdo it. We’d rather they use their accounts for observations and thoughts about the world around them and not just about them. And if we ever catch them with a Snapchat account, they will lose electricity and battery-powered everything for the next five years.
So far it hasn’t been an issue. Our girls are fairly self-aware and we’re grateful for the way they’ve embraced being sensible online. I mention this because, somehow, I’ve found myself Instagram friends with a fair amount of tween/teen girls and I am constantly wondering if their moms are following their feeds. Every post is a selfie or some quote pining over a boy they desperately wish would notice them and wondering what they can do to get his attention.
It’s the stuff of seventh grade diaries, only it’s public and it includes pictures. I get it; I was a seventh grader once. But the difference is that, once upon a time in one of my more clued-in moments, I had the great pleasure of burning every single one of my junior high diaries and all the hormonal turmoil I had penned into the pages – no harm, no foul. What these girls are posting will live on publicly indefinitely for anyone who wants to see.
Parents, we need to be paying attention. We need to be guiding better here than we’ve been doing. We need to be helping young girls who aren’t able to do this on their own yet to guard their hearts. We can’t just hope for the best and see what happens. We have to steer things a bit while they navigate these waters. That part of what it means to be a parent.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Let’s help our kids (and ourselves) keep this in mind as they (and we) choose what to click and post.
Megan Dunham is a wife, mama, foster mom, freelance writer, occasional crafter, hybrid homeschooler, and Mary Poppins wannabe. She collects most of her brain drivel here at the Half-Pint House.