Obviously, I will be discussing parenting with social media. However, I first want y’all to know that these are my own opinions, values and beliefs. I do not claim to be perfect, but I can assure you I’m doing my best. The past 12+ years of being a mother there is one thing I can say for certain, my opinions, values & beliefs can change as I grow and/or as my children grow. I do my best to stay consistent but I am more avid about learning each and everyday and keeping an open mind to be able to transition to other views/beliefs so I can best be there for my kids.
Every Kid Is Different
That’s never been more apparent to me then parenting my 4 kiddos.
Social Media has it’s standard “age expectation” for some of it’s platforms, however, it doesn’t always get followed. In a world where social media is a huge component, it’s important that I do my research, review my values and stay open-minded/always learning. Let’s start in the beginning and walk through this together. Definitely leave me some tips/tricks or cautions if you have already delved into this season of parenting.
When Is Your Child Old Enough For Social Media?
I view this question just as I view walking, sippy cups, whole milk, potty training, etc. Each kid is different. Their comprehension for the cause/effect of social media and their maturity are HUGE components on if they’re ready. Obviously this has to be built on a SOLID foundation of trust between parents/kids and their ability to communicate. So sometimes your child can show the ability to operate social media but mom or dad could not be ready to openly communicate some of what the child may encounter (think: any ‘risky’ topics. Remember, this is the internet where literally ANYTHING can be posted. I had no clue when I was dealing with my childs online predator that I would have to be explaining to her that we are not racist and that while the kid said he thought we hated him because he’s black but that he’s albino. <– yes this is real and it happened and still baffles me.) Anyways, my point is to make sure YOU and/or other parental figures are prepared to have discussions on anything that can “come up” while the kids are on the web!
Once you’ve determined your child and you/other parental figure(s) are ready in terms of communication, trust and maturity it’s important to have a conversation that is very serious where you lay out expectations of this app. I am huge on the why’s. I’ve learned that with my older two they tend to be more understanding and less rebellious if I genuinely sit and explain the why’s to them. They are both independent thinkers so they do not follow “because I said so” orders in the slightest. However, every kid is different so gauge accordingly.
In our house, we discuss this as a group (both parents present) if able, if not, the parents discuss it and relay how the meeting with the child goes to the parent who is unable to attend. Make sure you and your spouse truly dig deep on what’s important to lay as a ground rule.
Some basic ground rules that we use consist of…
1. Do not tell anyone where you live
2. Do not talk about if dad is home/not home
3. Never lie about your age
4. Do not send pictures/videos to anyone without approval from mom/dad
5. Do not give any personal information to include phone numbers, etc.
6. Any videos/pictures that are posted must be reviewed in depth by mom and/or dad as we explain to them yet again the importance of what the image they’re portraying on social media is.
We usually will let them know of any recent events that have occurred where a child made an uninformed or poor choice on social media and explain what happened so they realize we are trying to help/protect them, not control everything they do. We’re not fun suckers, I promise!
Golden Rule – Perez Edition
The golden rule in our house is mom and dad can take any electronic at any time, day or night, and go through it entirely. This golden rule is laid out directly after we have our meeting. When I do the meeting, I tell them the rules and the whys. I then ask them to tell me the rules and the whys. This allows me to clearly see if they understand why it’s important to not mention certain things. Sometimes one kid will get it and the other needs it explained a different way. That’s totally fine!! Just don’t assume that your kids just “know.” I have learned the very hard way that assuming they know can be the perfect match in a gas filled room of parenting.
** Tip: If I see that a child is deleting things and/or history that’s an automatic violation unless their other parent has done the deleting. This is considered them trying to hide something from us so that means our trust has been violated and we don’t know what all has been said/done so we will remove electronics and start back from ground zero. **
I also have started explaining to them that just because they delete something, doesn’t mean it’s truly gone. I am so grateful that I didn’t have to go through junior high or high school with people watching my every move via social media. (MySpace wasn’t so intense, haha) I also learned very quickly to make certain albums ‘private’ so I had my memories of my college days but my future employers weren’t seeing those either. I frequently speak to my oldest about how his decisions and behaviors NOW can effect his future.
My ‘Why?’ Child
If you haven’t figured it out yet, my oldest is the biggest “why” oriented kid in our family, which is totally fine, but he definitely tests my parenting a lot and I’m very open with him and apologize when I miss the mark cause we (he and I) are both trying our best. He wants to be an Officer in the Marine Corps. He’s wanted to be a Marine since he could talk, however, the last year he’s decided on Officer. He will need a college degree and has certain expectations as a marine.
Yes, he’s in 6th grade, however, he’s in all advanced classes and I’m not answering any of his homework for him, instead I’m coaching him on time management and how to juggle tournament wrestling 6 days a week while maintaining high grades his first year having 7 teachers. I’m preparing him now to have the characteristics and habits necessary to be a leader so I can help him evolve and he isn’t behind the ball as he gets older and his GPA, athletic ability, etc. is all very intermingled in terms of college acceptance, etc.
If you’ve been around me lately then you’ve likely heard me ask what seems like 20 questions anytime there’s an issue with one of my kids. I’ve stopped just answering for my kids when they come to me with a problem, but I ask them open-ended questions and/or true/false questions so I can gauge their thought process and how they got to their current decision.
I will then confirm their decision-making, correct it or discuss it further. This is helping me see where they are at in terms of comprehension, as well as helping them realize mom’s not just being mean! When I correct them, I ask more open-ended questions that guide them to the thought process that they may not be thinking of currently. I’m doing this to help train them to review the situation as a whole.
Yes, you may be 1 part of a 4 part equation, however, if you were the 2nd part of that equation you may not be as emotionally distressed as part 4 of that equation. Or, fun fact, you may actually be happy to be the 2nd part instead of the 4th part. It’s impossible to have a team where everyone gets along 100% of the time and has all the same views/beliefs. I’m training my kids to recognize that they can be respectful of others views/beliefs and/or defuse a passionate discussion simply based on their ability to view the situation as a whole and understand (not necessarily agree) with someone else’s views.
Anyways, I explain to the kids that anything they post now could be effecting their future as an adult so it’s very serious they follow my lead. This was drilled in deeply when our oldest broke his femur. He immediately asked his surgeon if this would prevent him from being a Marine. He was less than 2 weeks from being 9 years old and his surgeon looked at me and said “okay, so we are taking out the metal in 6 months so he can be a marine.”
What type of Social Media?
Another huge factor is what type of social media is this. I prefer to know the app and will usually speak with friends that are tech-savvy or social media gurus, etc. First and foremost, I prefer to have the app myself. I also expect to be a ‘friend’ of theirs so I can look and be notified any time they post something. My oldest two got TikTok against my better judgment. I had it and my oldest ‘accidentally’ deleted me. Now we have the rule I can check your electronics at any time day/night so I found out because I hadn’t seen him post anything lately but knew he was on his iPod. He may have ‘accidentally’ deleted me as a friend but I very purposefully and assertively deleted his entire TikTok. Haha. Sorry, not sorry.
My second oldest was all about TikTok challenges and so we had to have a conversation about provocative and suggestive dance moves, etc. Nothing more exciting then hearing your 9 and 7 year old (at the time) dancing to WAP. *face palm* I told y’all I’m not perfect! Ultimately, I ended up deleting TikTok for both of them. I’m beginning to humor the idea of having a ‘family’ TikTok that I will use in correlation with my blog and to give them some ‘responsibility/freedom’ back. However, that is still in discussion between my husband and myself.
Regardless of what social media app they are using, make sure you know of any possible red flags. I know I’ve already posted about the Online Predators in Roblox, but I cannot stress this enough. I genuinely want to know any and every way on how to message someone. I firmly believe the fact that I am so open with my kids and I don’t freak out, (I genuinely sit down and explain the why’s) is exactly why my oldest explained to me the different places to message and if they would/wouldn’t be saved for me to read in Roblox. Had he not told me that I could still be clueless thinking I’m doing my job simply checking the messages that are saved.
So again, that WHY is important to show them. At this point, in our household, I do not condone any app that will not save any/all messages. I want to know exactly what’s being said; not just so I can be a nosey mother, but because it’s my job to protect my ENTIRE family and if someone is feeling rebellious and wants to say something to jeopardize my ability to protect my family then I need to know. Remember, I explain the why to them so they see past just the simplistic and platonic level of ‘mom is mad at me’ but recognize the actual possible threat their rebellion can bestow on our family.
This is an ongoing topic that will be discussed throughout my blog.