Tech & Media
My Eight-Year-Old Daughter’s On Instagram And I Like It
BY DEBBIE KING, SUPAFITMAMA
PHOTO © jatinp1974/Twenty20
Jun 20, 2018
When my daughter’s school announced a workshop on social media fitness, I immediately keyed the event into my calendar. This was my chance to uncover all I wanted to know — and didn’t want to know — about how our children are using social media. More to the point, it was a chance to validate or adapt my personal approach to childrearing in the digital age.
I figured a private account linked to mine would provide a safe introduction to social media and a great creative outlet.
The workshop presenter, Chris Vollum, a social-media educator, opened with a brief review of popular social media platforms and a strong key message.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube were all familiar to me. And Snapchat I at least had a clue about. Or so I thought. What I learned about the social currency of "streaks" and "scores" legit made my eyes bug out — no lens effect needed. Vollum’s first point rang loud and clear: “Our kids are already engaged in this space. We need to be engaged, too.”
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Among the parents gathered that evening, I considered myself one of the savviest in terms of my own social media use. After all, my Instagram insights indicated I was doing something right. But this wasn’t about my adult engagement. This was about listening to and understanding the behaviours, consequences and opportunities that come with our children’s use of these platforms.
My mini millennial has forayed into social media with wholesome intentions and super cute pics, and I’m here for it 100 per cent.
As the evening went on, I found myself nodding along with the points being made. Yes, kids do need to understand that everything they post, like and share represents them. And yes, I agree with teaching kids to identify their personal values and behave in a way that reflects those values online and off. And uh-huh, used strategically, a social media account is a valuable tool.
When my eight-year-old asked for an Instagram account a few months ago (surely influenced by the amount of time I spend posting pics and crafting captions), that was the first and only interest she’d shown in social media. I liked the idea. My daughter’s a skilled artist with one foot in the digital world, and one foot firmly planted in analog innocence. I figured a private account linked to mine would provide a safe introduction to social media and a great creative outlet.
Her account thus far is a gallery of selfies bedazzled with stickers, peace signs, hearts and hashtags. Thinking back to Vollum’s point about personal values, my pretween gets two thumbs up. I love that she’s using the medium to represent her interests in art, music, family, peace and love. For now it’s not about the number of likes or comments. In fact, her only three followers are immediate family. My mini millennial has forayed into social media with wholesome intentions and super cute pics, and I’m here for it 100 per cent.
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Meanwhile, some kids her age have handles and cellphones of their own. Those boys and girls will be savvier and more sophisticated in their use of Snapchat, Instagram and whatever comes next, I’m sure. I wonder sometimes, if I’m doing my daughter a disservice by not allowing her to immerse herself in digital language and culture. Then again, if being a late adopter means delaying the relevance of social currency in her life and further, the onset of stress and anxiety described by Vollum — I’m all for it.
Once her social media activity actually becomes social, that’s when the real parenting challenge will begin. I cringe at the thought of threads authored by mean girls but know that, whether online or offline, I can’t control the world around her. As a parent, I’m here to help build esteem, teach respect, foster growth and discovery, and stay engaged to help her course correct if and when she veers from a healthy online path.
And if you have the opportunity to host or attend a similar workshop, I highly recommend doing so.