My preteen daughter, Evie, received her first cell phone last Christmas and it has turned out to be an asset on those crazy days when she is at marching band practice until the evening hours after school and I haven’t seen her all day. I remember how excited she was when she opened the tiny present under the tree and I remember telling her that I could see EVERYTHING she did on the phone just by logging in to my account online. I told her I could see all her texts, all her phone conversations and everything she looked up online. If I caught anything questionable, the phone would be taken away. I might have fibbed a little on exactly what I could see on my account but it seems to be working. I search her phone every once in a while and check the history just to make sure she is following the rules and I have yet to find anything suspicious. We also told her she was not allowed to have any boys’ phone numbers unless they were family. We are definitely not ready for that yet.
But recently she asked me, “Mom, can I have my own Instagram account?”
Red flags started going up in my mind immediately. Of course, we got the “all of my friends have one,” sob story from her so my husband and I had a decision to make. I’m sure many people are already shaking their head “NO!” while reading this, but we decided to go ahead and let her have one. Our ultimate decision was based on the premise that we think it is better to start early and teach her what social media is and how to properly use it, instead of having her sneak behind our backs and create her own account without us knowing about it.
These are the ground rules we set:
-no following anyone you do not personally know.
-all friends she wants to add have to be approved by us first.
-anyone posting something that we deem inappropriate will be unfollowed immediately.
-her profile must stay private to her followers only.
-I must know her password at all times.
and last but not least:
-any violation of the rules will mean the account will be terminated.
I am a big advocate of knowing what is going on in my children’s lives. I know too many parents that have no idea who their teenager’s friends are or what they do everyday after school. Then, by the time these parents realize that there is a disconnect and try to get involved, it’s too late and things are just awkward. I always try to show a genuine interest in what my children are doing or talking about. I am no expert and the teen years are just beginning for me, but my girls and I seem to have a solid foundation built where they are not scared to come to me about anything.
So, guess who’s Instagram account is on my personal cell phone? Yes, that would be my daughter’s. Is this a huge invasion of her privacy? Maybe, but she knows it is on my phone and that I have complete access. It’s social media, not her personal diary. These are the rules and if she wants the account that bad, she will follow them. I would rather know what is going on in my daughter’s life and who she is talking to than to find out one day that she didn’t come home, is missing and had been communicating with some strange guy over social media. One day, when I feel she is old enough to fully understand the dangers involved with using the internet and social media, I will loosen the apron strings. Until then, mom is big brother.
Although, I must confess, I am getting pretty tired of seeing pictures of furry kittens and puppies, and posts about everything middle school. I might die from the cuteness!