I recently overheard a group of mom’s having a conversation about social media. It went something like this:
“I’m so over Facebook. I’m deleting my account.”
“Me, too. I shut down my Instagram last month and I’ve never felt so free!”
“I’m so out of the loop on all the new apps. I never got a Twitter account, and I don’t even know what Snap Chat is! I’m over it completely.”
I found myself agreeing with their feelings that social media can be more like a ball and chain than a source of connection and community. There have been plenty of days where I’ve spent WAY too much time scrolling through ads, political opinions, and videos of cats and thought, “Is this really how I’m spending my time?!” My next thought is often to get rid of it altogether. But I don’t, and here’s why I won’t ever…
We are raising a generation of children who will never know life before social media. I clearly remember the thrill of the AIM “ding” sound and how much I loved My Space. I got my first Nokia phone at age 16, then upgrading to a flip phone I could text with when I left for college. For me, there was life before wireless internet and constant connection, but my children will never know that reality.
I read an article recently that said the average age of children downloading social media apps is 12. My husband and I have agreed that our kids will be older before they have personal access to social media, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be getting access elsewhere. And that’s exactly why I’ll always be active on (or, at least, very aware of) as many social media platforms as I can. Because, at some point, my kids will be there, too.
Growing Up With Social Media
My kids will navigate friendships, beliefs about self-worth, and constantly develop their worldview with social media as their road map. I’m 35 and can barely handle all the information thrown at me via Facebook and Instagram. How much harder will it be on my future teenagers to do the best they can with their still-growing brains? Just think about all the things your brain has to create room for every time you scroll through your feed. I mean, it’s all great info, and it’s fun to peek into people’s lives and feel like you’re somehow a part of it all. But when we were kids, we didn’t have to find space in our minds to carry all of this information. Unless you had a conversation with someone, you didn’t know they recently went to a concert, or started a new job, or their mom had surgery, or who they’re voting for. Think about how overwhelming it is as adults to sort through and make room for all the things we see and hear and learn from just ten minutes of scrolling on social media.
Imagine yourself at age 14, trying to figure out your period, your changing body, mean girls, cute boys, hard teachers, and nosy parents AND having a social media account. This is the reality for our kids. As frustrating as it will probably be for them, I want to walk with them (or, “follow” them) every step of the way. That means understanding the ever-evolving world of social media and staying up-to-date with the newest apps and how they work. I am determined my kids will learn how to use social media from me, not their peers. I want to be the one teaching them to block people and mute conversations. They will download new apps knowing their mom already has them on her phone, and is very familiar with how they work.
Don’t Walk Away
When it comes to social media, “being out of the loop” is not an excuse for us as the protectors of our children. It is our job to understand their world as best we can and be present with them in it. Their reality is much different than ours was at their age, but backing away or pretending they’re not exposed or don’t have access to social media is letting them to fend for themselves, and they don’t need that.
So mama, fire up that Facebook account and dust off your ol’ Instagram handle. Your kids need to know you’ve got their backs in those spaces, too.