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.