Growing Up Girl Child

What’s a Sinsta and Why Should You Care?

SinstaGirl Child came to me the other day and asked if she could get a “Sinsta.” I thought, “What the hell is a Sinsta?”

The Current Social Media Rules

She doesn’t get an account without permission from me. End of story. No exceptions. Yes, EVEN IF she already has an account on the social media platform in question. I get all up in her social media business. We went over the rules when she got her Instagram account. We went over them again, in very direct terms, when she got a Snapchat account. The work of constructing a pause button in her brain has barely begun.

So, What’s Sinsta?

Yes, there’s a new thing now with Girl Child’s Instagram crowd – a “Secret Instagram” account, aka “Sinsta.”

What’s the difference between that and regular old Instagram, you ask? The secret part. Apparently the kids have grown weary of perfectly curated and edited versions of their Instagram lives, and are creating these “secret” accounts where they can post stuff they normally wouldn’t post on their regular Instagram account. So far, for Girl Child’s circle of friends, this is where you get to dork out “secretly.”

Why This Could be a Bad Idea:

As we saw recently in that high school in Colorado, secret apps and accounts play perfectly into the teenager’s penchant for bad decision making. This isn’t your 1970’s call and hang up on your crush kinda thing. This is, “I’m going to give myself a place to make horrible decisions that could last forever and let people watch.”

The bigger potential problem I see with a “Sinsta” is kids hiding their problems behind this “secret” account. You don’t want to be the parent who finds out their child has amassed pro-ana followers on their secret account because they are posting Thinspiration photos on it. There’s also the idea of having two lives: the life you want people to see and the life you let your guard down to live. If a teen has an Instagram account that is full of sweetness and carefully edited light, and then they let the tougher and uglier parts out on the alternative account, they are creating a fake self and a real self. They are creating an inauthentic way of living, which at best is a bad habit that wears thin over time, or at worst, carries through to adulthood and makes knowing who they truly are harder to figure out. Is the pressure to show their lives on Instagram as perfect so great that they feel compelled to create a secret account for relief?

The shiny Instagram life, as we see with many teens, often belies a deeper problem underneath. Instagram is sometimes where social warfare takes place. (See: The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram by Rachel Simmons) So, this new trend of a “Sinsta” makes me wonder what the spin-off consequences will be and how they will manifest themselves in the lives of our kids.

Teens spend a lot of time trying to skirt adults who they believe simply don’t understand; I want to make certain that my kids know that I DO understand. The venues may have changed, but the feelings remain the same. So, TALK. A few minutes of uncomfortable conversation for you could mean theirs or their friend’s lives. Sit down and find out what’s going on, learn their social media platforms, get on them, and get up in their business. Their “Sinsta” account should not be a secret from you. If you get there and find out all they are posting is picture outtakes and bad Dubsmash videos, at least you know.

Growing Up Girl Child: My First Instagram Account

first instagram accountI finally gave in. Yep. Girl Child is now the proud owner of her very first instagram account. Seeing as she’s in seventh grade, SubHub and I second guessed ourselves on this one quite a bit.

And So It Begins

Instagram? We’re in new parenting territory. I made the decision when I started blogging in 2007 that I would share Girl Child’s story, including pictures. Oh, how naïve and cute that was. I think in the years following, many parents and an entire generation of kids have learned that a picture is worth a million reshares, whether you want it to get reshared or not. Once she was old enough, I let her read all the posts related to her and her experience on the Submommy blog. I took out anything that didn’t sit well with her. Since many of the posts are about her life, I wanted to make sure she felt she has a say in what gets discussed online. There have been times when she has asked, “Don’t share this, ok?” and other times when I have asked her permission to share something. We’ve established an ongoing dialogue as she grows up in the age of the Overshare.

This is one of those moments I feel it was a lucky twist of fate that I got into blogging and social media when I did. So, when the inevitable happened and she asked for an account, I was ready. As ready as I guess a parent ever really can be.

My First Instagram Account: The Rules

Here’s where I cop to being an extremely strict parent. I’ve been paying attention all these years to what gets shared, what makes viral headlines, and what just counts as obnoxious behavior from kids whose pre-frontal cortex needs some work that only growing up and life experience can make happen. A friend of mine says, “Kids run ’til they find the fence.” For Girl Child, the social media fence is close to the house where everyone can see it. These were the rules we agreed on:

  • Her account is private. Anyone sees her profile has to request to follow her.
    • She cannot let anyone follow her that she does not know in real life.
    • Conversely, she cannot request to follow anyone she does not know in real life.
  • She cannot put personal information in her public bio.
    • Personal information consists of: age, birthdate, address, her personal email address, etc.
  • I have to be one of her followers.
  • Her older female cousins have to be her followers also. They are 15 and 18 years old, and have experience.
  • For the time being, she asks permission of me to post a picture. This is a double-check I hope to instill in her. I want her to ask herself if this is a good idea.
  • If she wants to leave a comment on someone’s picture, we talk about what’s appropriate and what isn’t, including the use of hashtags.
  • She cannot reshare other people’s photos if they have private accounts.

As you can see, her first Instagram account is tightly controlled. It’s also working. She is reserved socially at school, and this is afforded her an opportunity to share pieces of her personality that she’s too shy to let shine in big noisy groups. Her school acquaintances have found her and requested to follow her, and she is following back. It’s opening up new possibilities for her as she starts to consider what she thinks is “share-worthy” about her and her life.

The rule that she has to show me what pictures she wants to post has come in handy, too. She brought a picture to me that she wasn’t sure of. It was selfie she took where she had face paint on. This led to a very productive conversation about “What if this gets shared by people? How would you feel about that?” She decided against it.

In talking about this entire thing, we also had to prepare her for the potential for hurt feelings. Her friends may post pictures of things that they have done together, and she wasn’t invited to join. This can hurt, even if you’re an adult. In internet-speak, people have abbreviated this phenomenon to FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. And it happened. She WAS hurt, but took it in stride, didn’t make any comments on the picture, and moved on.

Maturity vs. Sophistication

I’m trying to help her build a pause button before she hits send. I see parents everywhere mistake sophistication for maturity, and I can’t help but wonder if it leaves the child confused, or with a false sense of their perceived importance. We all know that adolescence is when we, as humans, are the most inward focused. I’m doing my darndest to make certain her sense of importance comes from real maturity, not just the illusion of it.

She knows where the fence is.

Growing Up Girl Child: Mood Swings

Mood Swings. The Bain Of Our Existence.

Ah, mood swings. A female rite of passage. One minute you’re fine, the next minute, you’re bawling for no apparent reason. It feels weird to be crying for no reason, so you make one up. That way you appear less insane.mood swings

This happened a few mornings ago. She poured herself some cereal without realizing I had poured a bowl for her already.

Burst into tears. ?

So we had a conversation about the whole thing when she had calmed down a little:

Girl: “Has this ever happened to you?”

Me: Absolutely.

Girl: WHY? THIS IS AWFUL!

Me: Yep. Can’t lie about that. It stinks.

Girl: When did you have mood swings?

Me: When I was your age, and then at the end of my pregnancy with you. I remember the most ridiculous things would upset me. I swear, I would drop my pen on the ground or something stupid like that, and start crying because it was hard to pick up. My belly was in the way and it would send me over the edge. Your poor dad didn’t know what to do.

Girl: What did you do?

Me: Rode it out. It’s just a feeling. You don’t have to attach it to anything. When you feel that stress coming on, and you want to cry, go ahead. Just know the feeling doesn’t need a permanent home with some vague issue that’s not really an issue. It took me practically a lifetime to learn that. Feelings don’t need to latch themselves on to anything.

Girl: Ok. (*sniffle)

Remember ladies – feels can be bullshit. Don’t attach a random feeling to a vague thought and make it bigger than it needs to be. It will pass, and then your logical brain can come back online and make sense of it all.

mood swings

 

Growing Up Girl Child: Body Image

“Media Literacy” is a buzz term around OpEd pieces that discuss the raising of girls. I’ve been watching and learning about it for a few years now, lying in wait for the day that Girl Child begins to turn inward and worry about things like her looks, what she’s wearing, when she’ll be developing, etc. I want very much to make sure that she’s guided through the gigantic maze of body image issues. I had plenty myself, and looking back, I was FINE. Better than fine. Pretty, even. I’m hoping to spare her the same self-torture by educating her on what’s real, and what’s unequivocally NOT real.

Girls and women are assaulted on the daily with what I call “Girl Mud Flap” body:

Imperial-mud-flap-girl

image: Nil Failstorm

What’s so insidious about trying to make this body type come to life is it’s not even real or attainable, yet it’s presented that way through manipulation. So, here are two videos I’ve shown Girl Child recently giving her a bird’s eye view of what really goes on after the pictures are taken, and how it can affect a woman’s body image.

Talking About Body Image

Love your body, ladies. Not so much for what it looks like, but what it can do, be, and endure.

(video: iGirl Television)

And then here is the one I showed her where four perfectly lovely women were photographed and subsequently given The Photoshop Treatment. Watch their reactions to the changes made and how it may affect their body image going forward. (For the better!) Suddenly who they ARE crystallizes.

(video: BuzzFeedVideo)

I am hopeful that because she was born with an imperfection and now has scars (which I tell her, “scars are stories.”) that she embrace all she’s been through, and realizes life is too short to not accept who you are inside and out. We are all so much more than the size of our breasts and what the tag says in our jeans. My hope is to guide her through these years and help her see herself as a whole entity, not simply the sum of her parts that she has compared to an impossible standard. One of the keys to this is being aware of how I talk about myself and my own body. I’m ok. So are you, and so is your daughter.

Growing Up Girl Child: Let’s Talk Dating Violence

Last time we discussed When Should I Start Dating? I think this naturally lends itself to “What Should I Do If Dating Goes Wrong?”

Increasingly, studies are showing that dating violence happens to 1 in 10 girls when they are in high school. HIGH SCHOOL. Ugh. Efforts are being made to introduce the subject earlier, before dating truly begins. You know, middle school. Where Girl Child is right now. I don’t think I’m quite ready to show her this video, and I don’t think she’s quite ready to see it, but I think it’s worth putting out in the world and sharing it. I believe both girls AND boys should watch when they are ready to take it in.

dating violence

Ingrid Bergman in ‘Gas Light.’ Where we got the term gaslighting

I can even see, at this stage in her young life, some of her peers shaping themselves with a scary dynamic when it comes to these early stages of dating.

No one should lay a harmful hand on you, gaslight you, isolate you, or make you feel like you’re the only person who can save them from themselves. You will not die without them. They will not die without you.

Take the time to watch this, please. I think it’s one of the most important TED talks ever given.

Leslie Morgan Steiner on Dating Violence

Dating violence wasn’t anything I considered growing up. My parents said, “don’t let anyone hit you. Ever.” And while that’s excellent advice, it’s not enough anymore. From the first emotional manipulation to revenge porn and all that modern technology can bring, the conversation has evolved and our conversations as parents need to evolve with it.

Getting hit is the most obvious form of abuse, but the abuse begins long before the first fist is thrown. Arming our kids with the skills they need to navigate healthy dating relationships is not only a good idea, it’s necessary.

Mission Growing Up Girl Child (Part 1)

[fusion_text]Girl Child has reached an age where her emotional and mental maturity are starting to come together. And then you know what happens? Hormones. That’s what.

We are keeping an eye on what we think she is ready to hear and know about, and what she isn’t. This is harder than it sounds. We’re pretty open with her about all things human, but parsing out complicated details as we think she’s able to process them is a balancing act. She’s in the world. We want to help keep her innocence but not her naiveté.

Parenting is hard.

Growing Up Girl Child

So, I’m starting a little series on this blog to help me: Growing Up Girl Child. I’m combing around the internet looking or sites and videos that I post here, and will hopefully serve as a reference of sorts for her (and possibly anyone who stumbles on this blog) that she can utilize.

First up: “When Should I Start Dating?”

I’m going to let the good kids at Blimey Cow help out with this one. Blimey Cow is composed of two brothers and their friends (one brother is married, so she is part of the fun, too.) They post videos weekly on a variety of topics that are great for young people. They’re pretty good for older people too, because let’s face it, I need all the help I can get with this little project.

Visit their sponsor, while you’re at it, so they don’t send me a cease and desist order for sharing the video: Audible.com.

Stay tuned for more tween growing up fun. When she asks me tough questions, like, “Mom? Why did Adolf Hitler kill people?” Or, “Mom? I don’t understand what’s going on with me. Why do I feel like THIS?” I can actually come up with a half-way decent answer. Maybe. Hopefully.

Parenting is hard.[/fusion_text]