Parenting is always an adventure. No matter your parenting style, there often seem to be issues that pop up out of nowhere that cause us to pause and reconsider what we’re doing. Even the most confident of parents are tripped up now and then; just when we think “Hey, I’ve got this,” something new appears and we’re back to the drawing board. The world of social media presents many challenges for parents and children alike. But that’s just how life is; this is a tough gig.
The Digital Age
Parenting in the digital age is bringing new issues to us, situations that our parents never had to address. Video games, social media, and the desire for online popularity add a whole new level of stress to the lives of moms and dads everywhere. There are countless articles and blogs explaining why children under a certain age should not be utilizing social media. I’ve read and considered these essays; they present valid, insightful thoughts about why access to these platforms should be heavily limited. However, after deliberate thought and debate, my husband and I have decided that our kids should learn how to be good digital citizens now, instead of waiting until they are older.
Like it or not, our lives are consistently influenced by social media. I’m an avid user of several social platforms, and I use it to connect (or reconnect) with friends, share photos with family, research new brands or resources, network with other disability advocates, find new recipes, and yes, even read senseless garbage to decompress. While I can recognize the dangers of these platforms, I also see the advantages of learning how to properly use them. Our kids have Instagram accounts (co-managed by yours truly!), as we thought this was the best place to begin their trek into appropriate usage. By allowing them to explore this platform, they are learning how to safely use the space. Social media is not going away any time soon, and by allowing them these social training wheels, we are hoping that they will avoid at least some of the common online mistakes of young people as they begin to earn more freedom.
Teaching Kids to Utilize Social Media Platforms
Recently, I encouraged my daughter to establish a Twitter account, as when she enters high school next year she will need to utilize that platform to see the incredible amount of information that is distributed to students via tweets. She was rather horrified at first, as she is aware of the intense exchange of ideas on that particular platform, but after assuring her that we could lock down her account, she was open to learning. I feel that this early, supervised exposure will allow her to become a confident user of social media as she moves into her later teen years, and stay with her even through her adult years.
While social media trends will certainly change, the basics of being a responsible user will stay the same. I’d rather my kids learn those fundamentals now, from me, to encourage them to behave well in the spaces that they will more than likely have to use, at one point or another.
Parenting in the digital age is surely an interesting ride, and it can certainly be terrifying. Just like the many other stages we’ve successfully navigated so far, we’ll get through this too, with a little patience and persistence (and a little chocolate every now and then helps, too.)