Can I start this post by saying I don’t think children should be given smart phones before secondary school? If they need to stay in touch with you for some reason at this age, a bog-standard text and call phone will do the trick. 10-11 is just too young to be handed the internet.
I accept not everyone will agree with me. In fact, it seems that most Y6 children have a *smart* mobile phone these days so I’m obviously not in the majority. Two years ago, when DD1 was in Year 6, there were a few kids who had smart phones but they were in the minority. Last year, when DD2 was in Year 6, she was very much in the minority in not having one. She did have ‘a’ phone, but it wasn’t a smart one and we put up with months of complaining and whining about how it ‘wasn’t fair’. Sound familiar? Then you are probably in the Phones Are For Secondary School camp too.
DD turned 12 in December, so we sent her to secondary school with a ‘brick’ and told her she could have a smart phone for her birthday. One week into the term she was in tears nightly over how she was missing out by not having a smart phone. All of her friends had one, she said. AND they all had Instagram/WhatsApp/ Facebok/ Twitter too. I told her she would not be getting All The Social Media when she got a phone. What’s wrong with texting? Text messages would have to do.
After a couple of months of sniveling , and DD missing out on invitations and get-togethers, I finally relented and bought DD1 a smart phone 3 weeks before her birthday. She was ecstatic. For about 5 minutes. Then she started gunning for Instagram.
When you are a kid with a smart phone, social media is where it’s at. That’s how they communicate. Kids at secondary school do not think ‘Oh, so-and-so doesn’t have [insert currently popular social media here] so won’t know what’s going on. Ill just drop them a separate text’. It’s like if you have to take time out of class at secondary school; you don’t get the work you’ve missed out on given to you easily, you need to make an effort to catch up.
DD used to spend a lot of time sending texts to different people trying to work out who was doing what, with who, and when. Allowing her to have Instagram definitely made things easier for her. She felt like she was part of the group that her friends were in. But soon Instagram wasn’t enough..
‘Muuuum’, she said earlier this year.’ I’m the only person in the WHOLE SCHOOL who doesn’t have Snapchat. Pleeeeeese can I have it? Or if not Snapchat, can I have WhatsApp?”
She’s probably not exaggerating too much; I am amazed at how many well-educated, intelligent parents seem to have no knowledge about what their offspring are up to on social media. Most of them don’t even care that they have no idea. Very few of DD1′s friends have any social media restrictions at all and she’s at an over subscribed. academic, partially selective girls’ school.
The trouble is that for all of these Apps, you are supposed to be at least 13. For WhatsApp, you are supposed to be 16! DD was 12. I said no to Snapchat as I don’t see what messages kids that age need to send to a friend that need to be deleted. But, despite the higher age limit, we said yes to WhatsApp; I’ve gone all over it and used it myself and it seems relatively harmless. I have her passwords and check up on her accounts regularly. Now and again I ask her to remove something or we have a discussion about how something might come across to others.
After getting WhatsApp, phone contentment reigned for at least a couple of months. But now she wants Oovoo. I’m not keen on video as I don’t want her phone in her bedroom and there is always someone kicking off in our house, and I hate the idea of me yelling, or someone’s tantrum being transmitted unwittingly to her friends as she chats. It seems too invasive for our household, you know?
DD2 is just 11 and has benefited from being the second born for a change. To her older sister’s fury, we bought DD2 a smart phone for her 11th birthday and I let her have Instagram straight away, as I now know that that’s how a lot of them communicate. But DD2 ramped up the social media requests much faster than her older sister; two weeks into Year 7, she’s wheedling for WhatsApp. And despite me saying no, she downloaded it, used it then lied about it. Now she’s got a phone without any social media at all. But am I fighting a losing battle?
My objection to my kids downloading every social media app ever heard of is that not only are they under age, but that social media takes time. DD2 was bad enough with just Instagram and we’ve had to set clear limits about when and where she can be on her phone. My girls are busy with school, activities and homework and don’t have time for social media addiction!
But no matter what I say, it’s not going to stop here is it? Once DD1′s 13 , she can (legally) use whatever Social Media she wants. How am I going to stop her?
I know that some of you will be thinking ‘Doesn’t she trust her kids?’ and I’ll answer truthfully. No, no I don’t trust them entirely. Look at the trouble that some adults get into on social media. I’d be kidding myself to assume that my children were incapable of doing something stupid or mean without guidance.
I’m really a bit lost here and would love to know how other people deal with the social media dilemma and how it’s worked out for them, especially if they have children in secondary school. No offence intended, but if you only have children at primary school, you probably have all sorts of good intentions. The reality is so much more difficult and so I’m asking more experienced parents for advice.
How do you handle social media on your child’s phone?