Instagram, Twitter, Kik aka adventures in a virtual world
Last week I went with my son to his 6th grade middle school orientation. I loved the Principal she is enthusiastic, energetic and really seems so dedicated to these kids. In the middle of this orientation she was explaining how electronics needed to be turned off and left in lockers otherwise they will be confiscated and the parent has to pick it up. Totally on board - no need for kids to be on their devices during school hours and let's face these are expensive items that we as parents worked hard for and would be less then pleased (bat shit angry) if they were lost or damaged in the hustle of class time.
It was at this time that my personal parenting and that of many others came to a vast difference of opinion with her version of how to handle social media. She is of the school(pun intended) that at this age they do not need to be on Instagram, Kik etc... that she would take off data from their devices all together. In the same breath that she mentioned how all their work would be on Google drive. She went on for a few minutes and even got some applause. I applaud her passion on the subject even though I disagree with it.
For me this is one parenting style that is bit head in the sand approach - if it works for you then no need to change it but if it doesn't well then my way is not wrong, opinion is not fact. For me this is the reality of their world, even ours to some degree. This how they communicate and it is just a bigger audience then the note writing that could be damaging when it was meant to of our generation. I understand cyber bullying and find it frightening but keeping kids away from social media is limited and to me eventually they will get there so I would rather teach them how to identify it, to discuss it and to make sure they are not doing it. It is a good time to talk about stalkers, predators and common sense in a virtual world.
In our house we go with the warning, discussions and frankly I look at all he posts. I have access to his texts and his accounts - I have told him that if he was embarrassed for me to find it then it should not live in the virtual world where it could come back in many bad ways when least expected. We talk a lot about how predators can pretend they are kids and how they should never, ever give their personal information in any way to anyone they do not know. He asks for permission to add anyone to his contacts.
We cannot protect our kids 100% but we can arm them with tools and knowledge. My opinion on this parenting matter is not that we banish it but rather that we embrace it and work through it with the child. I know the other side of this will cringe but parenting for me is one of those things where we share ideas but do not judge other ways of doing it unless they are abusive or harmful. You can make an argument that this is harmful as a parental opinion but to me it has not been nor do I see it as such.
Their world is not our childhood, it is not going to play tag in the street, nor waiting until Saturday to watch cartoons. You know the cartoons that every newspaper told our parents not to let us watch because we would be violent, not know that we were not Tom and Jerry and try to order a lot of stuff from Acme like Will E Coyote. My parents banned none of that, my dad and I watched horror movies on Chiller Thriller at night and on screen. I heard off color jokes at a young enough age to not get the double entendre. It is not easy to parent something that they know more about than we probably do but I would rather limit and work with their exposure then have them find out about from their friends -- that is not opinion that is fact.
So as our kids start school their connections occur through the ether .. watch them, talk to them, know who and what they are talking, be familiar with all the apps that is a good defense. I like the contract above even if you are not yet ready to let them go it still works for when you will be or to talk about why these things are necessary. If you are not ready for this and think you want to hold them back for a while longer then explain your thoughts to them. Either way they may not like how we parent but that is what good parenting is all about -- am pretty sure we all agree on that.