5 Things All Parents Need to Know About Instagram
You love Instagram.
Posting pics of your little one. Following that chick with the cuddle monster, sleeping baby, and puppy. Seeing what Jay and Bey are up to. (OK, maybe that last one is just me.)
It’s fun, right?
Well, guess what? Before long, your kids will be on their way to tweendom, and they will discover Instagram (along with all of their friends) and think it is pretty fun, too.
For me, it didn’t happen until my son reached middle school. But for others (I polled my fans on Facebook), it happened well before that, many even reporting that their 8-year-olds were asking for an Instagram account.
Before you sign your small person up for his or her own photo-sharing account, here are some things you need to know.
Instagram policy states that users should be at least 13. For some reason, parents either don’t know this rule exists (although it won’t give you an account unless your birthday computes correctly), or they just think it’s safe to ignore it. Either way, it’s important to note that if you’re signing your kiddo up before they celebrate their 13th year, you’re LYING about their age, and they know it.
Instagram accounts can be set to private. You don’t have to allow the entire WORLD to see your child’s photos.
Beware the comment section. I feel like IG kids are really, really, REALLY concerned about their looks, and what other people think of them, and how many smiley-faced emoticons they get. Of course you want people to think your daughter is as adorbs as you think she is, but do you also want her actively monitoring how adorbs people think she is? Or worrying that people are maybe not finding her quite adorbs enough today? Or competing with her besties over who is seemingly more adorbs based on something as fickle and meaningless as likes? Probably not.
Once you start, it’s hard to go back. We make our kids hold off on the social media front until at least middle school. Fortunately, my son’s personality isn’t really suited for online social sites anyway. (I check his IG account more than he does). But for some, it becomes this thing—this thing that they can’t wait to interact with. This thing that seeps into family time and homework time and hanging-out-with-your-real-life-friends-doing-real-life-things time. This thing that is hurtful or scary or lonely or sad. It’s pretty easy to get caught up in being connected this way, and it’s really hard to reel it back in once you do.
It’s OK to NOT give your kids an Instagram account. They are going to make you feel like the worst, meanest, oldest, crotchetiest parent on the planet. Get OK with that—it will happen more times than you can count in the future. But, if you think it’s not a good fit for your child or you are uncomfortable with it, nothing says you’re a bad parent or that your kid will be shunned by society if you don’t let them have an account for their 13th birthday.
I will urge you to be sympathetic to their situation, however, and be open to reconsidering the issue at a later date—when you do think they’re ready. My son got an account because he has earned our trust that way. He’s on the honor roll, he’s active in sports, he hangs out with his brothers and his friends and his grandparents like the well-adjusted middle schooler we want him to be. If that changes, so will his possession of such liberties like having an Instagram account and a door on his room. We think of everything over here.
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