I have a love/hate relationship with smart phones and social media. It’s mostly love but there’s a little bit of hate mixed in. I use my phone every day. I text. I text a lot. I rarely make phone calls. I use social media every day to communicate. It’s the main venue I have for promoting my blog. It’s the way I get the word out regarding my Wildtree business. I frequently use it for NextGenKids Ministry. I use it to keep in contact with old friends I can’t see everyday in real life. I have connected with lots and lots of writers who push me and inspire me to follow my dreams. I love it for all those reasons.
I have more hate for both now that my daughter is wading into the murky waters. She got my hand-me-down phone earlier this year when my term was up. We had every intention of starting this process at the beginning of 6th grade but my phone company made the decision easier for me a couple months in advance.
“No big deal!” I thought. “This will give us the summer to get used to the system and the rules before school starts.”
Hmmmm. I had no idea how hard this would be…on me. She has been amazing. She has followed every rule we have laid down. She has been respectful and honest about her usage and frankly, has not turned into the texting monster I previously feared. Yet. I use “yet” a lot in parenting. I know better than to say,”My child would never…”
It’s a lot of work for me monitoring all the pieces. I am far from being a helicopter parent but I also realize that there is a great big world out there and she has access to it with a simple swipe of a finger. So we set up some basic rules that I’ll share with you.
- The phone is not hers. It belongs to her dad and I. We can take it away at any time she is not being respectful or getting regular life things done. If the phone is in the way of homework or family time she will be asked to put it away.
- We have all access to all things. We set up her accounts. We set up her passwords. We reserve the right to change passwords at anytime.
- We may pick the phone up at any time and read all the things. Texts, pictures, social media….none of it is off limits to parent eyes.
- She must accept “friend request” or “follows” from any of her friends moms. And me. And the ladies of our Oikos (people we do life with). Sometimes I miss things. I need more eyes than mine out there.
- No apps get downloaded without our permission.
- At 9:00 the phone gets plugged into the wall in the kitchen. No texts, calls, or social media will happen after 9:00.
I’m sure these will adjust over the years. As she gets older and shows more maturity she will gain more trust and responsibility. The phone is a powerful tool and I don’t want to turn her loose and wild yet. She’s a smart girl though, and so far, has shown herself to be very responsible. The rules have opened up many hours of conversation and have changed and grown as needed. Like the time she received a text forward. One of those that says,”if you love Jesus you will forward this to all your contacts.” Well heck yeah she loves Jesus so….. Rule 7 is “we do not forward any text that threatens harm or promises fortune or blessing.
But this brings me back to social media. She is not allowed on Facebook or Twitter yet. Facebook has age limits. She has no interest in Twitter. But Instagram….oh, Instagram. We allowed her to sign up shortly after school started. But we have extra rules in addition to the follows and friend request rules. Such as Rule 8, which is “only one single selfie allowed per month.” There is a hot and fast trend of young girls taking selfies every other day. The only seeming purpose is to receive validation from friends on hairstyles, clothing, etc. They want to hear how pretty they are. I get it. Everyone likes to be told they’re pretty. But when the number of “likes” becomes a place holder of value then other heart issues start to rise.
I realize I may seem hypocritical when I just posted this yesterday…
But I promise you, I was not soliciting any sort of validation but instead calling out the people who left my office covered in balloons, beads, and glasses yesterday. If was funny. At least I thought it was funny.
I check her Instagram almost every night. Even though most of her friends have the same social media rules as we do, she follows several kids who don’t. She follows several kids who apparently have no rules. And I reserve the right to ask her to “unfollow” any of those people. So anyone who shows inappropriate attire…or no attire…gets an immediate unfollow. People who use it as a forum to make fun of others get an unfollow as well. We have talked frequently about the fact that so many people try to make their lives look bigger and better on social media than the life they live in real life. Sometimes they do that by taking lots of pictures of themselves. Sometimes they try to make others feel bad about themselves. Sometimes they are jerks. Social media is not the place we will look to understand our own worth and value.
I understand that all these rules may seem harsh to you. I’ve had people say,”If you trust your child you should respect their privacy.”
I totally trust that my daughter is an amazing human being. She loves Jesus, is kind to others, and follows rules to the dot. But I also trust in God. He has given us this child to raise. He has trusted us with her learning, her health, both mental and physical, and to protect her. We can’t protect her from everything. But that doesn’t mean we toss her the keys to a very adult world and say, “Have at it!” I don’t trust that.
Charlie and I are doing the best we know to do for OUR kids. You have to do what’s best for YOUR kids. And we all have to have each others backs. Parenting is not for sissies and social media makes it harder.
So I’d love to hear what you are doing. It takes a village to raise these kids and I’d be interested to know what other parents have set up in their household regarding phones, computers, and social media.