Slowly, over the last year – maybe a little more – I’ve been faced with a social media conundrum. One that, I’m confident in saying, my generation is the first to face. Well, not my generation per se, but the generation that has children who are Daniela’s age. I’m a bit young for that, yet :)
Though, at 11 years old, Daniela shows no real interest in Facebook or even Instagram (thank you, sweet, sweet gods of goodness!) the vast majority of her friends have more social media accounts than Marco and I combined. Including our (surely defunct) Myspace and Hi5 accounts.
At first I found it adorable that a handful of Daniela’s little friends were friending and following me. These 9 and 10 year olds were new to the social media game and I felt that I could somehow watch over their encounters and make sure all was on the up and up.
Then I posted a hilarious, yet not-at-all-child-appropriate ecard on Instagram which garnered several likes from those late elementary school students whom I had forgotten were following me. Oops. Once I started breathing again, I swooped in and lightening-fast deleted that ecard. La dee dah, nothing here to see, folks. Scroll along. But the thing was, I liked that ecard. I quite literally lmao and wanted to share that with my grown up friends so that they, too, could share in my inappropriate sense of humor. So I did the only thing left to do and I blocked all of Dani’s friends from my IG account. There. Home free.
Enter this article by Suburbabble’s Hollee Actman Becker about why your child should have an Instagram account. Go read it so we’re all on the same page. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Persuasive, right? So yeah, I unblocked all those kiddlets. I quickly realized, though, that there are lots of photos and links I post that they don’t need to have access to. They are Daniela’s friends and Daniela should be the one determining how they see her — not me. Daniela is beginning to create her own image of herself and as adorable as I find it that she cuddles with her stuffed animals and drools in her sleep, the image she chooses to portray should not be hijacked by my Instagram feed. I have no problem posting this for my own friends to awww over, but in Daniela’s world, she’s in charge.
Naturally, this has led to many conversations and thought sessions about how I portray Daniela and her stories on my blog. Thankfully, Daniela is still proud of thing things I write about her. It hasn’t yet become an embarrassing parent thing, and I want to make sure it never does.
So how do I find a balance? How do I write about our lives publicly while protecting Daniela’s budding independent life? I don’t know. I’m still figuring it all out. I have made Daniela a promise though: she has veto power over anything I write about her. However, I stress to her that in the Internet world, she won’t always have that option. People can say things online that aren’t true, that hurt, that embarrass and she will have little control over who sees it. Nothing is ever really private on the Internet. That’s why it’s important to always make sure that we’re putting Light into the world — even the Internet world.
My friend Glennon put it this way: “The internet is a real world now where people live and meet and get restored and encouraged and hurt. Our ability to sit behind screens and send out energy to millions of people is a great privilege and responsibility. It’s POWER. And our character is defined but what we do with the power we have. Do we use our interaction with other people in the spiritual (through our thoughts and prayers), physical and cyber worlds to lift others up – or bring them down? What we do and say and type and think matters. If we use our power to speak love – it will change the world. And if we use our power to speak hate and other nonsense- it WILL change the world: never more swiftly than it will on the internet. The internet is an enormous privilege and with great privilege comes great responsibility.
Anonymity is nothing. What you say anonymously still changes the world. If you throw trash out of your car and onto the road, but no one sees you do it – did it really happen? Yes. Does it still pollute our environment? Yes. Does somebody else still have to clean it up? Yes.
And so we must not allow the internet to be the place where we allow our worst selves- our Insecurity and Anger and Fear Demons run wild. We are responsible for the energy we bring to every world in which we live- the physical world, the spiritual world, AND the cyber world.
If you’re not kind on the internet, then you’re not kind.
Give a hoot, don’t pollute.”
Then there is the separate, yet related issue of my religious writings. I post links on Facebook and Instagram and I’ve talked with parents who would prefer their kids not be exposed to my particular brand of religion because it contradicts what they teach their kids. I’m fine with that. I am always trying to protect Daniela from fear-based religion so I understand the concern. But it adds another layer to my conundrum.
For now, I’m playing it by ear. I’m talking with Daniela about what is and isn’t okay for me to share — on my blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram. She knows who in her school life follows me and she is learning how to present herself both online and in person. While I still don’t know what to do about my middle school followers, it’s made me much more cognizant about what I put out into the world.
Oh, and parents? Listen up. That last point Hollee makes in her support of kids’ Instagram accounts; the one about kids having more than one account? It’s spot on. In the last month, I’ve had 3 of Dani’s friends follow me with new accounts. When I check them out, they’re using both accounts — one obviously parent friendly and the other, well, they have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of followers. Not so super safe, kiddos.
Again, thank you social media gods for my daughter’s lack of interest. At least there’s that.