Should Parents Allow Their Kids on Social Media?

By Mallika Chopra

Before we began “Perfectly Imperfect Parents“, I emailed my mommy friends and posted a question on Facebook, Twitter and Intentblog:

What parenting topics are most important to you today? What should we be talking about on this show?

By far, the number one response that I got back was friends asking us to discuss how parents should deal with social media. And most of the responses expressed fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about how to control their kids.

I’m sure parents of every generation feel they are dealing with trends that are ahead of what they understand or even know about, and they are overwhelmed with uncertainty. And with each generation perhaps we feel we live in more difficult times than those before us.

Social media seems to be the big theme amongst my fellow parents. Questions like: When should they get a phone? Are they on Instagram? What about Snap Chat? What are the other apps and sites out there?

Here is what’s going on in my house:

My elder daughter, Tara, is eleven years old. She has had email for a few years but is not really into it. We set it up so that she can keep in touch with her grandparents. She can only use it to email cousins, grandparents and her close friends.

She uses a computer for most of her homework already, and is more adept at searching for information and using Dropbox to download and upload her homework assignments. She already types faster than me, does better Powerpoint presentations and makes iMovies.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.11.25 PM
16-year-old YouTuber, Audrey Whitby, on “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”

She does not have a cell phone – perhaps half of her friends do have phones. She uses a “family” phone when she is at a non-school event alone (not at play dates, other peoples homes or classes). Every wish, every ask, is for a cell phone.

She is not allowed Instagram (the social media platform most of her friends are on), let alone Snap Chat – which I don’t think she even knows about yet. (Snap Chat really freaks me out.)

Her school says no students are allowed on Facebook or Twitter. I haven’t heard of any of her friends on those platforms.

So far, while we have proven to be a bit more conservative when it comes to social media, it hasn’t become a huge issue yet as I think half of her social circle has similar rules in their houses. But, I know we are months away from that all changing.

Sixth grade seems to be a turning point, with middle school the point of no return when it comes to social media. I have to admit when it comes to my kids, social media has been ensconced in a general aura of fear. It’s the unknown that promises to expose my kids to too much information, too much access, too many opportunities to interact with people I don’t want them to interact with.

But something happened last month (after we shot our social media episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”) that started to take the fear away.

My husband and I were in Munich for a conference and the girls were in Washington DC with my parents for the presidential inauguration. Tara had the “family” phone and we began to text each other throughout the day.

What unfolded was an entirely new, and absolutely amazing, form of communication with my daughter. Her texts were funny, insightful, moving. My husband and I would wait to get her messages, and smile all day long as we read them. She texted us the moment President Obama took the stage at the inauguration – we could experience and share her emotions through her limited characters and words and laugh as we saw her snap and text photos of her and Leela
smiling in the freezing cold. We felt connected, engaged, so incredibly happy that we had this amazing tool to be in touch.

I realized that like the generations before us, we as parents will ultimately figure it out with our kids. There will be bumps along the road no doubt, but hopefully and optimistically we will find ourselves more connected because of technology.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”, as well as how you deal with social media in your family. We are all very eager to learn from each other!

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