From the Blog: Social Media and tweens. I’m not ready for this.
“Mom, when can I get Instagram?” She’s been asking me this question for weeks now and I’ve been able to put her off with the promise of looking into it. She’s 10 years old.
Personally, up until about a year ago, I thought Instagram was just a photo filter app I had on my smartphone to overlay textures and colors that made me look *almost* photogenic. I really had no idea of its capabilities, reach, access and more importantly, dangers. I didn’t need to know about it because my kids were still wonderfully naïve and happy playing Fruit Ninja on my old Generation Jurassic iPhone. But now she cares. Which means, I also have to care. Here we go.
My initial internet search of “parents’ guide to Instagram” turned up the aptly titled “Parent’s Guide to Instagram” straight from the horse’s mouth, the Instagram website. The Q&A format is split into three sections: Basic Info, Safety and Security. While the information was helpful, some of it was slightly misleading. For instance, it says anyone over 13 can sign up for Instagram with a username and password. In fact, anyone at all can sign up for Instagram with a username and password. There was zero verification of age or parental consent when my daughter and I created her account.
The website offers you to the opportunity to download the “Parent’s Guide to Instagram” PDF which is actually really great info. Although the guide is for “parents”, it’s written as if it’s talking to a teen about how to use Instagram safely in a way that’s not overly parental. You will definitely want to read this together with your child.
And file this under FYI, but due to privacy laws, even parents are not allowed to have access to their children’s Instagram account if they are “13 or older” (again, basically anyone that has an account). My daughter is 10 and currently doesn’t expect privacy anywhere near a phone or computer so I’m happy to be having these conversations with her now so that when she is 13, it will just be a fact of life. Because I’ll be monitoring her account on her phone. Period.
In a way, social media has allowed parents these days a greater spy glass to their kids’ behaviors and activities. When my friend Michelle and I used to “ride our bikes to the playground”, our parents never knew we were actually scaling the roof of our elementary school to break in and run the empty hallways on a Saturday. This is not me reading her diary. But this is me watching her in a public forum and I have no shame in my game.
This year has been a big turning point for our family. The worries of bike safety and stranger danger have transitioned to areas of concern that will require vigilance and constant education on technology along with managing some serious pushback from my baby on her desire for greater independence. One day at a time, I guess. She hasn’t even mentioned Facebook. Yet.
(Original publication: Suzanna Vicinus, Portsmouth Herald, July 10, 2015)