We’re big fans of Cyberwise’s tagline ”No Grownup Left Behind.” We want to see all parents up to speed when it comes to what their kids and teens are doing online, and what kind of guidance best assures safe and responsible online activity.
With that in mind, our digital wish is for parents of kids who are coming of social media age is: “No parents who just say no”.
“What’s that?” you say.
Let me explain.
The average American teen gets her first cell phone by the age of 12, and has had Internet access for years by that time. She is part of the first generation of true digital natives. The Internet already connects her to much of what she reads and listens to and the things that make her happy. Without a doubt, she is going to communicate with friends via her cell phone, and probably not by calling them.
When she is in the 10-13 year old range, or gets her first phone, she’ll probably ask you if it is okay for her to get her first social media account – these days it will probably be Instagram, Snapchat or Ask.fm. Resist the urge to just say NO, even if you’re sure that’s the right answer.
If she did it without asking, you have another set of problems, but that’s a topic for another day…
If you just say no:
She is going to do it anyway – in some shape or form. Perhaps she’ll learn from a friend how to download an app and hide it in a folder, or delete it each time she uses it. Maybe she’ll borrow a friend’s phone or tablet to set up an account.
Eventually you find out. You won’t be able to delete the account. Let’s pick on Instagram for a moment. You can’t call or email Instagram. You can’t submit a form instructing them to delete the account – she owns it, even if she is under 18.
If you say no, she might end up with a rogue account, you’ll be angry and nothing was learned (and you have a child who is learning to hide things from you – a bad start to the teenage years).
If you say yes: