Last Saturday afternoon I returned home from taking my youngest son surfing. I looked at my phone and noticed that I had a friend request on Instagram.
Ten minutes later when I sat down to check my emails I also went to Insta to see who wanted to be my ‘friend’. I got quite a shock when I saw that it was a fully nude woman. Naturally I deleted the request, and I told my wife about it so she was aware of what I had seen.
As a mature adult I moved on, until I was talking to another mom later the next week who told me about all the nude requests going around on Instagram. She was horrified that her 14 year-old son had received a whole series of them and she explained that it was a computer-generated system friend request being sent to thousands of accounts.
So all of these innocent (well, some are, some aren’t) children are now exposed to images that they are too young to be seeing. And they are not even going out of their way to do so. The images are coming straight into their Instagram accounts.
I don’t mind a bit of Facebook, and I like to post things because our family and many life-long friends live in another state. So it’s a great way of keeping in touch. Facebook was an incredible innovation, and when done right, social media is a fantastic tool. But as a parent, it’s a nightmare.
Social media is a game changer for parents. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but one thing I do know is that we cannot leave it to our schools to administer how children use it. It is our job as the parents.
Only one of our children has Instagram, but admittedly he is in high school. We won’t let the others have accounts. My wife and I keep a strict watch though. Our son needs to have his phone where we can see it at all times. We take his phone each night and we don’t give it to him in the morning, so he is not glued to it.
We also have the ability to login to his Instagram account at ay time so we can see who his ‘friends’ are, as well as what is being posted. Some nights my wife will sit on the couch with him and ask him who certain people are. If he doesn’t know then she immediately deletes them.
The other thing we have done is give our son his phone so that we have the right to take it at any time. That’s because technically it is our phone, not his. The reality is that our kids are too young for it, but it’s a fine line banning teenage children, which can also lead to all-out rebellion.
Social media has made parenting this generation’s children a whole new ball game. To the point where, through our book publishing company Ark House we are publishing this book in September of this year. Michelle Mitchell is an expert in this area and I am about to get my hands on an advance copy. I might even share a few tips here.
Mark Zuckerberg., social media was an amazing way of staying in touch with friends and family, but seriously, you’re making my parenting life hard.