My 12-year-old daughter doesn't have an Instagram account. She's not on Facebook or Twitter either. Truthfully, she's not much interested in Twitter, and Facebook has become somewhat passe for this generation. It's Instagram that is the big bone of contention around here.
Our reasons for keeping her off Instagram have nothing to do with her ability to use it responsibly. Our 12-year-old is one of the most responsible kids I know. I'm sure she would do a pretty good job of deciding what's appropriate to post and look at and what is not.
With the increase in ways that our kids can communicate with their peers, ways that are incredibly difficult for us to monitor, it becomes difficult to be a responsible parent. Mobile communication has made keeping track of our kids' relationships almost impossible, and it has made bullying really easy.
So, today, I wanted to share with you why we've made our daughter an Instagram pariah. I want to tell you why we're standing strong against the argument "But everyone else is on Instagram." I want you to know why we think it's so important to limit our kids' access to social media outlets until they're older.
First, I'll start with the reasons why our daughter does have a cell phone. She got a cell phone last year when she went to middle school. Our reasoning was this: First, we often leave our daughter at soccer practice, so she needed a way to communicate with us if she needs to be picked up early or late. Second, she also needed to be able to communicate with us if she was staying after school (the days of pay phones in schools are a thing of the past). Last, we wanted her to be able to participate in communicating with her friends. The primary mode of communication for middle schoolers is via text. My daughter rarely picks up the phone to call and talk to her friends. (There are good and bad things about that mode of communication, but that's a post for another day.)
Now, my daughter's phone is locked down tight when it comes to the Internet and downloading things. She can only surf the web through a filter, and she can't download things without permission. She also knows that I can read her texts at any time. Misuse of her phone is grounds for losing it.
But Instagram and other social media are different than her phone. So, we've chosen not to let her be on those sites. You may make a different choice for your child, but whatever choice you make, be sure it's an informed one. Too many times, we're so worried about making our kids a social pariah that we give in just to keep the peace. That's not a good reason to sign our kids up for social media. If you make the choice to allow your kids access to social media, that's fine, but know your reasons for doing so.
So, here they are, our reasons for making our daughter an Instagram pariah:
1) The terms of service for most social media sites, including Instagram, state you have to be 13. She's not, and we're not willing to condone lying to allow her to create an account. (This is a great tool for shutting down arguments about whether she can be on the site or download the app.)
2) Being a 12-year-old girl is hard enough. You're just starting to figure out who you are and who you want to be. When you post every moment of your life on the Internet (which is what tweens and teens tend to do), you're giving your friends the opportunity to vote with the "like" button on who they think you should be. It's peer pressure at it's worst, and it's accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No tween needs that kind of social pressure.
3) What you post on the Internet lives forever. We don't want a lapse in judgment about what to post at age 12 to follow her around the rest of her life. Before social media, kids could make mistakes in judgment, and the only people who would know or remember were those who actually saw the event. Now, that lapse in judgment can follow you for the rest of your life.
4) It's hard to monitor. Social media sites are difficult for a parent to monitor. A child can create an account you know nothing about. Kids can do a lot of harm to themselves or to others before a parent ever finds out about it. When we do, it's often too late to do anything about it. If she's not on social media, we don't have to monitor it.
5) Social media sites are a bully's dream. Internet bullying is a growing problem. Kids say things via the Internet that they would never say to someone in person. Keeping our daughter off those sites keeps her from having to deal with that at her tender age.
We're not going to keep our daughter off Instagram forever. In the next year or two we'll probably let her have an account (after she turns 13). I'd rather she learn responsible use of social media while she's under my influence than have her learn it the hard way on her own as an adult. But for now, we're perfectly happy to hear the cries of "Everyone else has an account" and "It's not fair."
Because God didn't call us to raise kids who are just like everyone else. He called us to raise kids who know and follow Him, kids who are set apart. For now, for us, that means raising a daughter who is an Instagram pariah.