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Tales of a Tween: Navigating Social Media

By Angèle Alain

Last week, an article appeared on my Facebook feed about banning the use of handheld devices for children under the age of twelve. The article linked the use of such devices to obesity, lack of sleep and other negative side effects.

I was irritated by it because I don’t like the idea of banning in general. Although I agree handheld devices and children don’t mix together harmoniously, I feel that it’s a parent’s role to manage their child’s use and limit side effects. Just like candy, television,  strangers, or anything else that can cause children harm, it’s our job as parents to teach our kids how to navigate those waters. When it comes to radiation exposure, however, I get it. Our wifi shut itself off at night since I don't want us exposed to radiation more than we have to. A phone under a baby's pillow is never a good idea.

Kids as young as age four use handheld devices at school. Why not? We live in a world of electronics and there are so many wonderful tools to assist learning, especially for those who need extra help. I got my child an iPod at age nine, when she mostly listened to music and played games. Now that she’s eleven, she does wonderfully creative things with it: she writes and records songs, she creates and films mini features of all kind, she still listens to music, she plays Minecraft, and she takes photos and posts some to Instagram with clever captions. She can also text and Facetime her friends, email her teachers, as well as call me on Skype, text or email me when she has Wi-Fi. This last part makes me feel better and replaces the phone I’m not ready for her to have. We’ve set limits of use, of course: set the devise to “do not disturb” at bedtime; don’t film things in their entirety instead of experience them (such as concerts); leave the iPod at home, remove yourself from an overactive chat, etc. 

 "Oli enjoying the new kitchen"

"Oli enjoying the new kitchen"

We’ve also set rules about social media. Last winter, my daughter asked me if she could join Instagram, that younger-crowd-photo-based-Facebook-type-website that lives in an application. It’s the only social media app she’s shown interest in. I knew about it but I didn’t have an account. I used to be a team lead of a social media group in government, so social media doesn’t scare me. My daughter has seen both her father and I use Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis. Still, the thought of my little girl publishing online was intimidating to say the least. I decided to follow my own advice for a test trial, and teach her about social media rules and etiquette instead of delaying the inevitable.  If you decide to go that route, here are a few the rules we have taught our daughter:

 "That moment...."

"That moment...."

Social media rules to live by

1. Keep your account private (until you are 18 or famous or get parent approval to do otherwise).
2. Only accept follows from people you know. 
3. Never, ever post a photo unless you don’t mind seeing it on a billboard. Even if your account is private, you cannot control what others do with your photos.
4. Always be nice when you post and when you comment. The meaning of your words cannot be easily construed when tone of voice and body language isn’t present.
5. Don’t be bothered by mean comments - you might be reading too much into it. If the comments are always mean, block the user.
6. If you see someone being bullied on social media, call them out.
7. Show me your posts on a regular basis and give me your password (I set up her account, so that’s not an issue).
8. Remove any photos I don’t agree with (this hasn’t happened yet, but she did replace a profile photo in which I felt she looked older).
9. Accept my follow and follow me (I created myself an account and her friends follow me. It’s cute).
10. If this test trial doesn’t work, we pull the plug.

These past months of Instagram posts have been a lot of fun. I’m impressed by my tween's arty photos and witty captions. She even brought her device to Japan and posted photos of her experiences on Instagram. Her classmates then shared her photos with their teacher and their class, giving them the chance to experience a little bit of her trip. She also was able to Skype with her class from Kyoto. I’m happy to say no rules have been broken and she is continues to make good decisions about her social media presence. The trial was a complete success.

  "I don't know which one is worst."

"I don't know which one is worst."

A Ban? Not in our house. 

Do you have a device ban in your house? Why or why not?