About six weeks ago I posted about our eldest DD wanting to join Instagram before the age of 13. DD turned 12 a week before Christmas.
I had a few comments on that post, plus a few IRL and on Facebook and Twitter, and in the end my husband and I decided to go ahead and let her install Instagram on her phone. We realise that by doing so we are encouraging/allowing her to lie about her age, but we felt that because all her friends had some sort of social media already, she really was missing out if we didn’t.
She’s now had instagram for a month, and we haven’t regretted the decision. We think she is learning some valuable lessons about social media and the use of mobile phones in general.
She spends a lot of time on Instagram. We are keeping a close eye on what she’s posting and we’ve had to have a few conversations with her about various posts. She’s on a learning curve, as are we, and everyone makes mistakes. That’s how people learn, isn’t it?
She has learnt not to post photos of other people, especially other kids, on instagram without getting permission. She did this without asking and was asked to remove the photos.
She posted some daft ‘Make Your Own Sentence’ thing that was going to lead to her making a very inappropriate statement. She wasn’t happy when I asked her take that down, but now knows that she mustn’t make jokes about having sex on social media. She’s 12 FGS and I think she should have known better, but she seems unable to see past it just being ‘a joke’. This is typical of this age group and a perfect illustration of why they need supervision.
I’ve talked to her about the chain letters she sometimes reposts. They are of the ‘ If you don’t post this , you/ your mother will die’ variety and they scare her, so she does tend to share them. I don’t like this and have told her so, but have to respect her fears.Then I told her that by reposting, she is also scaring other people and she does seem to have posted less of these as a result.
She also posts, and takes part in, a lot of popularity competitions where the winner gets a ‘shoutout’, ie the OP says’ everyone follow this person’. I’m not that keen on this as I think it can be hurtful if you are voted out first, but DD assures me that she tries to make sure people take turns ‘winning’. I’m not convinced but everyone seems to do it, so I’m picking my battles.
DD has also been reprimanded for swearing in posts but we’ve had no inappropriate pictures so far.
We’ve had to talk about not going on her phone while in the company of others. People IRL come first, we remind her.
There is a lot to learn for both parents and children when your child starts using social media. You can not just leave them to it. My DD is a bright, sensible girl but she’s done some stupid things already. And that’s just on one platform. I dread to think what it would be like if I had let her go on everything at once. Keeping up would be a full time job!
The sad thing is parental involvement seems to be very, very rare with this age group. DD has 70 odd followers on her private account but I only know of two other parents who take an interest in what their children are up to. My DD’s friends know that I’m on instagram too, and apparently think it’s cool at the moment. I think I am one of the few parents who is. However, they may not know I am watching them quite as closely as I am. I don’t know what i’d do if I spotted another child posting something bad though.
Apart from the odd hiccup, as far as my DD and her friends are concerned, Instagram seems to be relatively harmless at the moment. It’s a big part of their socialising outside of school and seems to be a way of keeping connected with their friends while they are at home. DD also uses it to keep in touch with friends from her primary school. I haven’t seen any nastiness yet.
If you have a 12 year old who wants to dip their toe into underage social media, then I would say that Instagram is not a bad place to start. But you will need to supervise them; it’s not something you want to just let them have the run of as there are mistakes to be made.
And you need to be there to pick your child up when they make them.