This was written in 2019 but is still very relevant to parents in 2023!
Just a few months ago, my 11-year-old daughter asked if she could create a Tik Tok account for her cell phone (The only capabilities she has are phone, text, and camera. All other apps are locked down and inaccessible via the Norton App Lock app.)
I guess I’ve been living under a rock because I had never heard of Tik Tok.
Tik Tok is a type of app that centers around videos created by its members. She explained that a lot of her friends have accounts and that it is mostly different dances and funny videos. My first thought was, okay if your friends have accounts, and you can watch each other’s videos, then it’s a type of social media. So initially, my gut reaction was no.
My husband, on the other hand, spoke up and said, “I tell you what. I’ll download the app on my phone and I’ll use it for a few weeks and then we can decide.” Interesting approach, I thought, but whatever, go for it.
Well, it took him about 30 minutes to give his answer.
Of course she came back with the “Awww man, whyyyy???”
“Because this is not an app that is meant for kids, especially not kids your age. It’s full of garbage, bad language, crude jokes. Sorry, sweetie. But no.”
Then, after she walked out, he sat on the couch and laughed hysterically while watching video after video for the next hour. Seriously.
(And it’s on the daily that I get ridiculously stupid videos sent to my phone because he actually finds the app to be hilarious.)
No Social Media, in any form, until high school.
Sorry kids, but thems the rules.
Listen, back in the ’90s, I went from one unfortunate outfit to the next. Smiley faced t-shirts and overalls and my bright red hair in a hard part down the middle. My middle school years were tragic, and I AM NOT LYING.
And none of it is documented anywhere, thankyouverymuch. (Unless of course, you want to dive into one of the 85 scrapbooks I have tucked away in my garage.)
I would wear my outfit, somewhere between confident and terrified, and no one said a word. There were no nasty comments from girls who didn’t like me. No absent likes or reactions from boys I liked. No moment in time where I sat, fragile and insecure, at 11-years-old, waiting for someone to tell me publicly that I looked cute.
I didn’t care because I didn’t know to care. I wore my clothes and smiled with my freckles and braces, and then I very likely went home and hung out in my bedroom, all vsco-girl-like on my inflatable furniture while I listened to Britney Spears. It was a simpler time.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I dealt with my fair share of snotty girls with snotty comments. Humans don’t always get along, and sometimes our mouths run faster than our brains and ugly things come flying out. But then, you get on the bus, or in your mom’s car, and you go home and deal with it the next day at school. Or you three-way call your besties and have a conference.
But the huge difference between someone making a passing rude comment and someone POSTING a rude comment under a public picture of someone else?
It lives on that picture, on that media platform, on that phone, and festers like a sore, bubbling and growing and drawing attention to itself and begging for more.
Middle school kids have next to no self-control, and if they see an avenue for attention, they make a hard right going 90 so they can suck every ounce of it up. They also do a fabulously crappy job of considering consequences.
So the phone, with the social media, and the picture with the festering comment, now live in my house, where my child can torture themselves by looking at it whenever they feel compelled. Maybe someone commented something nice? Maybe there are more likes? Maybe she deleted it?
Suddenly, my child isn’t lip-syncing to Taylor Swift in her little vsco girl bedroom. Instead, she’s becoming obsessed with other people’s comments. Reactions. Private messages. Texts.
GUESS WHAT? WE AIN’T HAVING IT.
You won’t be inviting your bully to live in my house because essentially that’s what it becomes.
And you won’t be giving in to the rabid temptation to indulge in bullying of any kind. If you don’t have the outlet, then you lose the opportunity. (And HEAVEN HELP YOU if I find out you are bullying anyone. Heaven. Help. You.)
So, until you are well into high school, and you are brave and confident and strong enough to handle having an attempted bully as your roommate, we will be full on avoiding social media at all costs. Sorry, ya mama just isn’t cool.
And, let’s be real transparent here, bullying is just one reason why we avoid social media like the plague. The list is really endless. From creepers to narcissistic celebrities, to questionable hashtags and challenges, social media is a literal cesspool of toxicity for tweens. (And teenagers as well, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.)
And, just to be clear, before I post anything having to do with my 11-year-old on my social media pages, I ask her permission. She’s at the age that we are building her self respect, her self confidence, and control over situations that affect her.