The debate around Social Media and it’s presence in our lives is a crucial and charged one. There are many resources and articles on the evils of using Social Media, as well articles that make a good argument for the usefulness of Social Media. I personally made the decisions 4 years ago to minimize it’s presence in my life. Over the last 4 years I have either deleted accounts or cut back to viewing once a week or less. I am down to just Facebook and I do not use it more than once a week. I would not have the account at all if it was not for the WordPress and WooCommerce Advanced Users groups. It’s also nice to visit every now and then to see how my family and friends are doing since I no longer live in the Bay Area and interact with them in real life.
The decision to mostly leave Social Media alone in a corner is one I made. But what about my kids? What age is it appropriate for them to jump on? Should they do it at all? When are they able to handle even having a internet connected device? This is one of those areas that I believe vary from child to child. Some of my kids should just avoid it, possibly even into adulthood, while others I think would naturally use it minimally and be able to have a positive experience.
One of our teens had Instagram, which was was more or less something that just happened, not a planned decision. We did make it clear early on that a Facebook account is off limits. There were a few attempts to get Snapchat and Musically, but since we use Bark to monitor their accounts, we were able to stop that. Instagram seemed to be somewhat safe, but there are two issues that we saw arise. The first is that Bark monitors their texts, but it cannot monitor their conversations on Instagram. So essentially they can have conversations that bypass the Bark filters that look for violence, depression, bullying and profanity. The second issue is that our child was sinking hours and hours into looking at photos and posting photos. Not your typical selfies, we have some aspiring artists and there is a large community of artists that post their work. The answer is not always to pull the plug, but in my opinion that is the answer when a child fails to self regulate and shows signs they are struggling.
I was pleasantly surprised when our teen decided it was time to take a break from Instagram on their own. Seeing the struggle with time management and feeling the addiction, they decided to delete the account. That’s great! They beat me to the punch. So at the moment none of our kids have any social media accounts and their devices are all monitored by Bark. We also require all devices, phone, tablets, Switch, DS, etc. all be parked at the charging station at my desk by 8:00. If they are not, they lose that device for one day.
I think this is the best we can do for now. Protect and guide them while preparing them to be healthy adults. Television, Devices, Social Media, they are all just mediums, it’s really up to the user to use it correctly. Social Media is a tough topic to navigate as adults, as children it’s beyond dangerous to just throw them into it and expect good results. Our kids need us to help them navigate these waters.