It’s not a political question, but I know people have strong opinions about it. This topic recently came up in my house. Obviously, both my kids have seen us use social media. My almost 12-year-old son is already on Kids Messenger and YouTube. He also has online chat in multiplayer video games like Fortnite. I know other social media apps require you to be 13 years old but even that seems young.
Is Social Media Too Dangerous for Preteens?
I remember when Facebook became popular. I was a freshman in college, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I know I probably can’t force my kids to wait until college to be on social media, but that would be nice! Not only is social media a big part of my work life, but it’s also a big part of my creative life. So, the question that came up, “Can social media also be part of my pre-teen’s life, or is it too dangerous?”
The simple answer—from both my husband and I—is yes. It can be a part of a pre-teen’s life, and it is dangerous.
Parenting in the Digital Age
Don’t get me wrong, I am very aware that pre-teens and teenagers use social media to have fun, make and maintain friendships, share and learn interests, explore identities and develop relationships with family members far away. It’s an extension of their offline and face-to-face interactions. But this is also new territory for most parents, including myself.
Instead of being terrified by the situation, my husband and I sat down and discussed it. We didn’t have social media growing up, nor cell phones or the internet. We’re parenting in a whole new world, and we know that it’s up to us to teach them right from wrong whether online or offline.
Creating a Social Media Plan for Kids
As a family, we came up with a plan that everyone agreed on.
Using social media responsibly doesn’t just happen. It requires regular conversation and routine updates. That’s why my husband and I will monitor Cohen’s social media usage. At first, I thought that seemed to be violating his privacy, but my husband reminded me that kids don’t always make the best decisions. So, when Cohen gets social media apps, we all understand that I can look at his pages any time.
Our social media plan goes back to our cell phone rules. I have his passwords and can look at his messages. We try to be proactive by teaching him online etiquette and safety before he gets in trouble and learns the hard way. The most important part of this plan is having an open dialogue with our child and setting boundaries around the appropriate, responsible use of digital devices.
Conversations about Digital Responsibility
We explained to Cohen what social media is and how it can be used in a child-friendly manner. We told him there are restrictions in place for his protection. We discussed appropriate and inappropriate online behavior. We let him know that he is vulnerable to online predators, even if he’s unaware, so to be careful with virtual strangers.
I taught my kids about responsibly uploading photos of themselves and friends. They know that whatever they post on social media stays there forever. While images, videos, tweets and messages can be deleted, information can resurface for others to still see, screenshot or save their content before it goes away.
Instead of banning my kids from all social activities online, we’ll continue to teach them how to be smart about their social engagements and keep the conversation going as they grow older.
Babies & Toddlers
In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!