True Parent 7
Got a question too embarrassing to ask anyone else? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll find an expert to answer it for you! This month we have Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Intern Gianna Russo-Mitma dishing out the real talk.
My daughter (she’s 10) wants an Instagram account. When my wife and I expressed doubts about her being ready to participate in social media, she pulled the “all my friends are doing it” card. (This may or not be factually correct.) How do we know when she’s ready for social media, and perhaps more importantly, how do we know WE’RE ready for the responsibilities of monitoring her?
—Social Media Scaredy Cats
In this social media generation, it’s difficult to keep up—especially when kids sometimes know more than adults. First, recognize how awesome it is that your daughter came to you and asked for permission! As with all parenting decisions, it’s important to focus on what’s healthiest and most effective. This happens with open, calm, and honest conversations with your partner and as a family.
These conversations can start by answering these questions: How mature is your daughter? Is she aware of the dangers and vulnerabilities of being a child online? What are her reasons for wanting to join social media beyond peer pressure? Does she understand how to respect herself and her body?
Next, turn the conversation to her. Make sure she recognizes what’s appropriate to post, and remind her of the value of self worth. Discuss the pitfalls of posting under peer pressure, and teach and model self-respect—on and offline.
Be sure to discuss how posts on Instagram can be misleading, and aren’t an accurate portrayal of life. Adolescents can experience self-esteem issues by irrationally thinking everyone else is “picture perfect.” From there you can broach the topic of online bullying; discuss how to recognize it, and what to do if and when it happens.
It’s every parent’s nightmare to hear, “But all my friends are doing it!” You can’t give in every time you hear this statement. However, if she’s not given similar freedoms (safe, legal activities) as her friends, she may feel left out, potentially causing her to rebel against the rules. Create a balance of allowing her to make her own decisions, while you also make the final call.
So how do you know if YOU’RE ready? Create your own account and become her social media expert. Increase your knowledge about her world. Don’t give her power in the situation by allowing a generational technology gap.
If the time has come for her to get on Instagram, be a united front with your partner about rules, enforcement, and consequences. 1) Become her friend/follower on social media; 2) Monitor her posts and keep communication open; 3) Make her account private and only allow her to accept friend requests from people she knows; and 4) Educate her on why privacy is important.
This should be a continual discussion as your daughter matures and her online presence grows. The internet is a big, scary place, so it’s important for all of you to educate yourselves on what and who is out there—while also allowing your daughter to feel included and safe in this new social media generation.
Gianna Russo-Mitma is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Intern here in Portland. You can learn more about her, read her posts, and contact her at giannamft.com.