My daughter is in her teen years, and as the days and months go by, so does the pressure for her to have Social Media. Most of her friends have at least one form of social media adding to the pressure. My answer has been a firm no, and although I realize SM will become a part of her life at some point, I am not ready (nor do I feel she is ready) to enter that world. I have a few big reasons and a lot of little ones for why I do not want her on social media platforms. I will just touch on a few.
1. FOMO- Fear of missing out.
Social media was not part of my world growing up. However, I still remember the sting of finding out a few of my friends had a slumber party over the weekend that I was not invited to or went to the mall without me. Not being invited to everything is a part of life and navigating those emotions is something we all must do. As an adult, I still see photos that bring me envy. I want to go to that concert or be able to afford that vacation. I can recognize and filter those feeling and handle them in a mature way. Something that age and life experience have taught me.
Our pre-teens and teens are not equipped, yet, with as much emotional intelligence. Seeing these events play out in real-time over and over on Social Media only adds to the already difficult task of managing and controlling overflowing teen emotions and responses. Teens have strong emotions and feelings, you know, hormones. It is our job as parents to help them steer the wild ride. Adding SM to that mix is like adding gas to an already blazing fire. It is just not necessary, not right now. Many studies are coming out now linking social media to depression, lack of sleep, anxiety, and feeling of dissatisfaction, especially in teens. Just as I talk with my children about alcohol and drug use and its dangers, the strong feelings the use of SM can bring is an important subject as well.
Bullying has been a part of the adolescent world, unfortunately, for generations. Social media and the internet are just another avenue for this behavior, and it is largely un-monitored. People and especially teens typing from behind a screen are often bolder and more persistent in their bullying. There is no peering eyes or being overheard by a teacher or parent. Teens will often not tell their parents or a teacher for fear of retaliation, perpetuating the bullying. It’s a vicious cycle. As adults, we have seen bullying and keyboard warriors on our own SM platforms, we cannot pretend this does not happen equally as much if not more with our teens. And again, it is an area I can cut out for my teen right now. Why have one more thing to worry about?
3. Impulsive Behavior
Our brains are not fully developed until we are in our mid 20’s. It was this very reason why the country decided to back up the drinking age from 18 to 21 many years ago. New research showed just how dangerous alcohol was to the developing brain. That part of our brain that tells us something is a bad idea is not fully developed yet and why we see teens put themselves in dangerous situations. They simply are not thinking, literally. What you put out there can potentially be out there forever. A photo that you think is innocent and private between you and your friends can be used against you for years or potentially passed around for hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions to see.
Our views on the world and politics tend to mature and change over time but a post or a tweet or a clip you decided to post at 13 never goes away. Future colleges and jobs do check and will have access to viewing your social media. We have all seen careers fall, families destroyed, and friendships ruined over social media posts. Pre-teens and teens are impulsive and not thinking about the long-term impacts and consequences a social media post can have. So, in a matter of speaking, I am trying to take that trigger away and protect them from themselves.
4. Protecting from Strangers/Predators
Plain and simple. Predators. It is probably one of our biggest fears as parents. They are out there, they exist, and your children are targets. I tell my daughter all the time it is not her I do not trust; it is everyone else. She does not fully understand this yet, and that is ok. I am glad she does not, it is my job to protect her from this. And when it comes to predators, can we really be too overprotective? Not in my opinion. Predators are smart, they are cunning. It is their goal to blend in and groom their victims. Your teen, more than likely, won’t even know it’s happening.
Teens, as stated before, are impulsive, not thinking about the consequences of what they are sharing. They also tend to overshare. They may share their location, the fact that they are alone, where they go to school, and more. Giving away too much private and personal information. Teens are often vulnerable because this is an age where they are finding themselves and are often insecure. Predators know this and use these feelings to exploit young teens, making them feel seen, heard, and validated for all the wrong reasons. The good news is your teen becoming a victim to a predator is rare, but not impossible.
5. She has her whole life to be on social media
Truly. There will come a time when she can and will make this choice for herself. I realize I cannot keep her from Social Media forever. I also want her to have SM while under my roof so we can navigate it together. I do not have a magic age in mind, I am hoping the maturity of each of my kids will direct me, and it may be different for each one. Until then, I want to salvage as much of an innocent childhood for her as I can. I want her to be active and social on her own, without the use of a device. Hopefully, by the time she makes the decision for herself, she will be mature enough to handle it and make healthy choices within it. I am in no rush for any of my kids to grow up.
6. Mistakes/Cancel Culture
I expect my kids to make mistakes. I expect their friends to make mistakes. I also want them to expect each other to make mistakes. As I have said before, our opinions on politics and world views often change. They mature with age and life experience. My teen is sheltered to a degree and naïve because she is young. Cancel culture seems like the higher road, but its downfall is it also cancels patience, understanding, forgiveness, and communication, all qualities I am trying to instill in my teens. It can be a sanctimonious attempt to humiliate someone because you disagree with them. I think it is a dangerous practice, especially among young people. I understand there are some things that are inexcusable no matter the context. President Obama had a way of breaking it down, “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. ’That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”
7.Body Image/Unhealthy Unrealistic Expectations
The unhealthy expectations media has put on body image, in particular females, has been going on for years. It was once only found in magazines and TV with celebrities and models. We knew the photographers were using precise lighting and fancy editing technology to brush away imperfections. Knowing this didn’t make it any easier on how we saw ourselves, but we could at least explain it away and close the magazine. It was mostly celebrities, so it felt more foreign.
Now, it is everywhere. Social media and the advanced technologies of phones have brought this world to our fingertips. Everyone has access to photo filters. I have seen people spend minutes upon minutes adjusting their phone angle, changing filters, and fussing at their friends and kids to get just the right photo for posting. Added to that is the psychological thrill of how many “likes” you may get for a post. If you did not get your subjective fill of “likes” as a teen, you question, why? I try to remind my teens that social media is just a glimpse, a perfectly selected snapshot of someone’s life, and it is usually the highlights, the best pieces. On its face, this is fine. As far as social media goes, I prefer the cute family photos and vacation images to a war of words over politics and religion. But for a teen struggling to fit into their own body, this can be damaging and unhealthy.
8. Negative/ Inappropriate Images
I have heard countless stories from friends of teens about how their child was sent an inappropriate photo whether from friends or complete strangers. Dick pics and pornography being a few examples. Snap chat in particular seems to be a venue of choice for this because the image only lasts a few seconds, giving the sender a feeling of not having lasting consequences. They are readily available at the click of a button (this loops back into impulsive decisions). As much as I may try as a parent, there are many things out of my control in the social media world. My 13-year-old does not need someone sending her a dick pic because they think it’s funny. She is not ready to process that kind of image, and again, why give another venue for these things to happen. I am also trying to keep my teens from searching for inappropriate images. Children are curious and it is not abnormal for them to be curious about sex in particular. All they have to do is google search “sex” one time and the number of images that will appear and the subsequent rabbit hole that could bring them down cannot be unseen. Addiction to pornography at younger and younger ages is real. Pornography will not set my children up to have healthy sex lives as adults. It is an unrealistic view of most adult sex lives. I do not need google teaching my children about sex. The longer I can keep those images away from them, the better.
Whenever I am faced with a difficult decision I often make a pro/con list.
That is exactly what I do when mulling over the right time to introduce SM. For now, I feel SM in my teen’s life is unhealthy. The negatives outweigh the positives. The longer I can keep my teen away from social media, the healthier I hope their usage will be. Life is meant to be lived and not behind a screen.
Lately, as I have been talking with my daughter about her lack of social media use and why it has brought my own usage into the light. What is she seeing from me? Am I setting a good and healthy example? This is a topic I explore in my next New Orleans Mom Post.