This summer, right before school started, my daughter asked if she could have an email address, a Pinterest account, and a Facebook account. I knew this day would come eventually, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to have my baby exposed to social media.
OK, so she isn’t a baby anymore. Julia is a lovely, responsible, smart, and wonderful young lady of 14.
My Thoughts on Social Media
I have a love/hate relationship with social media.
I love that I can reconnect with people I have lost touch with over the years. I love that I have been able to get to know people I never would have without the internet. I love that I can feel connected to the rest of the world even though I am at home most of the time.
What I don’t love about social media is the negativity, the airing of dirty laundry, people bad-mouthing their children, and the list goes on.
A few years ago I made a decision to try to only post positive status updates on social media.
I also don’t post very often on my personal or blog accounts. It isn’t that I don’t have a lot I could say, it is just that I am trying to guard my tongue, or in this case fingers.
When we put something into cyberspace it is a reflection on our character. I think we sometimes forget, when we are sitting in our sweats in our living room, that what we post on social media can leave a lasting impression.
One example would be complaining about our kids online. They may one day read it and be very hurt by what we have written. The same goes for our spouses, family members, friends. When something is written down and shared via the Internet it is hard to retract it.
Why I Let My Teen Have Social Media Accounts
I already mentioned that my daughter is responsible so that was one of the main reasons I felt she was ready.
While I would love to shelter her from some of the things that I know she might encounter on Facebook, we ultimately decided that entering high school would be the age we would allow the use of email and social media for our children.
So, our daughter’s age and actions were the deciding factors.
Setting Up the Accounts
Email was the first frontier. Julia and I sat down one evening and set up a Gmail account together.
I helped her add family members to her contact list, write an email, create a signature, and any other things I thought she might need to know.
After a few days of successfully using email, I helped her set up a Pinterest account. She was so excited about this one.
We talked about how to pin, repin, like, and to check the source of any pin to make sure it is a valid link and goes to the correct site.
A week later we set up Facebook. I took her through every step of setting up her account from adding a profile picture, to choosing friends, to posting, etc.
I really enjoyed helping her set everything up. We had some great discussions about online etiquette, but mostly it was a bonding experience as we navigated these uncharted waters together.
You can imagine how thrilled I was when the first thing she posted on Facebook was a Bible verse. 🙂
Where We Are Now
After almost 2 months of using social media I am so proud of how my daughter has done. She is very mindful of what she posts and has even asked me to help her block some people from her feed so she doesn’t have to look at any profanity.
She has even been able to get back in touch with a dear friend who moved away six years ago.
While I know that I have no idea what will happen in the future with this whole social media thing when my boys are older, for now I am pleased with the maturity my daughter has shown.
Often she is so busy that she only gets on the computer to check Facebook and Pinterest on the weekend.
What About Texting?
This one is a no for our family. For goodness sakes I don’t even have a smart phone so my kids aren’t going to have one either.
When they are driving by themselves we will contemplate a cell phone for emergencies but until then no cell phones for our kids which in turn means no texting.
Other Social Media Platforms
I talked to Julia about all of the various social media accounts out there and she agreed with me that Facebook and Pinterest were enough.
Even though I have a Twitter account I really don’t use it like I am “supposed” to.
Since Julia doesn’t have a cell phone, Instagram really was a non-issue. I have Instagram but I only have an iPod Touch so I don’t post often. I have even thought about just deleting my account because I don’t really have time to keep up with it.
Blogging is something I can see Julia enjoying but that will be something to contemplate at a later time.
Tips for Parents
- Set up email and social media accounts with your teen. Going through the process together not only helps your teen know how to properly use social media and email, but it also lets him or her know that you want to be involved.
- Keep record of their usernames and passwords. This one is a deal breaker for me. While I don’t feel the need to snoop on my daughter I want her to know that I can get into her account and see what she has been doing if I feel the need.
- Be their “friend” on Facebook. By being my daughter’s friend on Facebook I have been able to tag her in any photos I have posted of her as well as praise her publicly. It amazes me the number of kids on Facebook who aren’t friends with their family members and are posting all sorts of inappropriate things. This would have been a deal breaker as well.
- Have discussions periodically about what they are seeing on social media. Keeping an open dialogue about social media has allowed my daughter to feel comfortable asking me questions, discussing inappropriate posts she has seen, and makes it so she knows I care about what she does online.
While what we are doing may not work for everyone, it is how we have chosen to handle social media with our teen. If it ever becomes a problem we will reserve the right to take the privilege away.
Do you think Christian teens should have access to social media? What tips or suggestions would you add? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.