It was inevitable. Last summer, my oldest daughter asked about getting on Instagram and Facebook. Many of her friends were slowly getting on board, so it seemed like the logical next step.
So John and I weighed the pro’s and con’s, and we concluded we just had to say “no” — at least for now. I know that she’ll most likely be getting these accounts when she goes off to college — and I’m okay with that — but for now, I have no doubt that this is the best choice for our daughter and our family.
I’m not here to say what you should be doing with your own kids, but maybe you’re like me and trying to figure it all out. I figured I’d share a few thoughts on why we saying “no” for now.
First of all, let’s just be honest up front. Nobody in my home has any socks right now — nobody. They are all unmatched, floating around the house and in a very large laundry basket in the laundry room. Most mornings, we find ourselves desperately throwing socks out of that basket, just hoping to find an acceptable “match”. Most of the time, they aren’t actual matches, but they’ll do.
If I can’t stay on top of the sock situation in my house, do you really think I’m going to be able to stay on top of what my kids are posting and seeing in their social media accounts? Do you really think I can go through and make sure their “friends” are actual friends and not 35 year old convicts who are looking for their next victim? You give me far too much credit, if you think I could.
First reason we’re waiting on Facebook and Instagram: all the unmatched socks in my house.
Perhaps that’s not convincing enough? Well, then consider this: the use of Facebook, Instagram and other major social media outlets have been proven to cause an increase in depression and lower self-esteem, especially as the amount of use goes up.
There’s no denying it, social media is most likely going to cause your kids to experience more depression and anxiety than if they forego these things — so why are so many of us allowing our kids unfettered use of these accounts?
I also want to wait for social media until my kids have been formed enough in the truth of their own faith, so they can recognize the counterfeits online. Yes, there’s a lot of good out there, but there’s also a lot of bad, and your kids will be exposed to whatever their friends and friends’ friends choose to share with your kids. No offense, but most teenagers aren’t exactly the best curators of amazing content.
And maybe you trust your daughters friends, but how about her friends’ friends? How about the goofiest kid in her class, the one who’s always trying to prove himself by acting like an idiot — because she’s likely to get requests from that guy, too, and maybe even his Uncle while we’re at it.
All of a sudden, we’re making our kids’ lives far more complicated, and who needs a more complicated life? Not me, and definitely not my teenagers.
Honestly, my oldest daughter is in a pretty good place to recognize the good and bad, but how about her 5 siblings below her? Because if she had those accounts, most likely her siblings would find a way to be jumping on her phone and looking at her feed, too.
Besides, social media accounts are one of the first places that kids will get exposed to pornography. They don’t need to be looking for it. Trust me, porn is looking for them. Our kids are only a click away from some awful stuff — life-long damaging stuff. Don’t even get me started. To read more of my thoughts on porn, read this post here.
Dive a little deeper into the world of human trafficking, and you will find countless stories of young girls and boys being “groomed” (How I hate that word!) for abduction — or, at the very least being introduced to a world of seedy men and women pretending to be 15 year olds looking for “meet-ups”.
We’re endangering our beautiful kids in ways none of us want to imagine. Our job is to protect our kids from predators that are out there — and there are countless predators who spend most of their waking hours on social media looking for their next victim.
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that your kids manage to not get abducted or to get introduced to porn, or to find themselves depressed and anxious — let’s just say they manage to avoid all of those negatives of social media use. I still think that by nature, social media accounts encourage a voyeursim in our kids that’s just not healthy.
None of us need to know every detail of somebody else’s life, especially when those details include parties and fun moments that don’t include your kids. Beyond those “rejections”, overuse of social media puts an incredibly unhealthy focus on the self — and there’s nothing that creates more dissatisfaction with our lives than thinking too darn much about ourselves.
These accounts can ultimately become a huge distraction from living life, really living it. Sometimes the “insta-worthy” shot becomes the goal of the night, rather than having a truly amazing time connecting with others.
Besides, social media can encourage an “online persona” that is not anything like the real you — which can lead to more isolation and inability to connect on a deeper level with other people.
Recently my son relayed a story of a really nice young man who was sitting next to him, reading a text from a buddy. His face, according to my son was “dead-pan” serious. With zero emotion, he texted back to his buddy, “LOL” and then he proceeded to text back, not one — not two — but three of the “laughing till I cried” emojis. And he did all of this with zero emotion in real life.
Honestly, it was a good image for my son to have in his head about the ridiculousness of communicating via the internet. It’s a lot harder to fake joy when you’re in person. It’s also a lot harder to experience joy when you’re staring at a screen instead of having real contact with a real person right next to you. Personal encounters are the moments where real “LOL’ing” is most likely to happen, and social media can distract us from those opportunities.
Social media is not going to go away, but in my opinion, the longer we can delay diving into this world, the better. I want my kids to have the time for their brains to catch up with their bodies. Their impulsive responses will be much more tempered with each passing year they wait to get onto social media. That’s a great reason to wait on it.
I’ve heard too many stories of really nice kids sending really inappropriate pictures of themselves out into the internet. Little do they know that those pictures are probably going to be out there for the rest of their lives, and it will likely affect the way people perceive them and relate to them, for years to come.
As parents, we are there to protect our kids from their own stupidity. That’s a big part of our job description, so let’s not fail them in their greatest need.
So maybe you’re convinced that delaying social media is the best decision for your kids. Now what?
First of all, share your decision with other parents, so they know where you stand. When you have gatherings, suggest that you make it a “turn in your phone or iPod” event. All the kids will have so much more fun without those dang phones.
Most parents will applaud you for thinking of it. And the others? Well maybe it will get them thinking, too. Maybe it will give them permission to eliminate social media in their own kids’ life.
Secondly, prepare your kids for the world of social media. My daughter spent almost a year preparing to drive a car. It wasn’t an automatic right just because she turned 16. We should have the same attitude towards kids’ having their own phones and social media accounts. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege that takes maturity and training to properly handle.
Give your kids a picture of what social media really should be: a place to share “the good, the true, and the beautiful”. Social media can be a great place of evangelization or at least pre-evangelization. Let’s encourage our kids to post things that aren’t about giving glory to themselves, but rather about loving their neighbor and giving glory to God. That’s a great litmus test to propose to your kids.
For example, instead of the typical group selfie with everybody with their duck faces staring at the camera and a heading like “epic time”, how about the same picture that says, “Had an awesome time at Life Teen. Missed you guys who couldn’t make it, maybe next week? IM me for the details”. Same picture, entirely different message.
Give your kids examples of what you are sharing on your outlets, and tell them why you chose to share it. And if you can’t stand the thought of your kids seeing most of your posts, well then, maybe it’s time to examine your own motives in posting.
Encourage your kids to post things that will bring hope to a world that is desperate for it. Encourage them to reach out to the kids who don’t seem to be connecting with others. This is a beautiful way to prepare your kids for the world of social media. It’s the perfect way to help them take the focus off of themselves and on to the rest of the world.
Finally — and this one hits a little closer to home — we need to watch our own social media use. Oh, it hurts doesn’t it? Have hours that are “phone-free” for everybody. Family meals, late at night, whatever, just find the moments where your kids know you are saying “no” to yourself as well.
We all need to keep phones in check, and we’re all going to benefit from putting in the effort to do it in our homes and throughout our day.
My biggest word of advice after reading this: if you’re feeling guilty about your parenting efforts in regards to social media, maybe it’s time to go to confession so you can be free to move on. We can’t change the past, but we do have a very big chance to change the way we choose to parent from this point onward.
No matter your mistakes, you are still the most important person in your kids’ lives. Don’t forget that God is dying to love your kids and to guide your kids through you, sinful imperfect you. Imagine that.
He’s there to help you do just that. Good luck and Godspeed!
Linking up with Kelly.