It’s reality. Or not? Social media has an undeniable presence in the lives of our kids that we’re all still figuring out how to handle. Mama of four Rachel Parkinson offers some thoughts on the upsides of Instagram for her homeschooled teen girls—plus what she’s found helpful for keeping it safe and productive.
By Rachel Parkinson
Sorry, what? I have to parent teen girls in a digital age?
Life has changed. Kids are not out playing with their friends, on their bikes, until the street lights come on. There is instead a big, grey, scary-seeming cloud hanging over things. You can ban it, ignore it, let them do what they like with it, embrace it, but let’s face it: social media is here and our teens are enthralled with it.
Both of my teen girls have Instagram accounts. My oldest was the first to ask for it, as she wanted to start her own blog with a relevant social media page. At the time I was dubious. She began with a private account, but as a budding marketing genius, she realized that the way to get blog views is through followers, and for that, you need to be public. Reluctantly, I agreed.
At the same time I embraced Instagram myself, so I could keep an eye on what was happening; at that point, I was even checking out her new followers. I talked to her about possible weird private messages, and encouraged her to bring up anything she felt odd about. These instances were few. As a matter of fact, she met a wonderful friend through starting her blog. This friendship, via careful vetting and supervision by both sets of parents, moved offline and continues today.
Both my girls have used their Instagram feeds in a, let’s say... professional way, and also each have a private account for their fun shots and cat pics. In reality, I’ve seen it teach them plenty about marketing, business and the fickle nature of internet fame. Followers have come and gone. Both girls have enjoyed some sponsorship deals (with free clothes!) in return for blog posts and Insta pics. For a teenage girl, free clothes IS winning. Take pics of themselves wearing them? Sure, no problem.
We have discussed the kind of images that we are all comfortable with them sharing. We have also discussed why you might not want to sell your soul for free stuff, and how to say no to sponsorships that don’t sit well with you. They have both seen the bikini and underwear posts by other users and stay far away from that. Yes, they are aware that skin gets followers… and aren’t going down that road.
Another plus of the social media situation has been their added ability to chat with friends. Being home-educated, they don’t get to see their friends all the time, so having a chat on Instagram is a great option. While I can see the downsides of too much time chat time, I also regularly see the benefits staying in touch with people their own age.
How We Make It Work
Here are some tips we’ve found work well for keeping it all safe, moderate, and in check:
- Ensure device charging happens in the kitchen, not in bedrooms!
- Use a family-wide device (tablet or phone).
- Stay connected—with each other, especially while eating, chatting, etc. Yes, sometimes my phone comes out for a cafe pic… but then it goes back in my bag. I can post it later!
- Take time away from devices all together! We regularly go to camping spots with no internet connection and come back somewhat grubby (yes, showers optional!) singing the praises of open fires, stargazing, and slow living.
I am winging it, of course, just like most everybody else in this new era. But what I do know is that I am trying to strike a balance between respecting the needs of my daughters (to fit in with their peer group), and my own need for them to be safe, happy, and well. We all enjoy our switch off times. But that being said, we also all enjoy a good couch potato session with tea and a browse of the latest pics on our Instagram feeds.
Balance, moderation, and connection are what I'm working towards. I will keep you posted!
Have you had positive experiences with your teens using social media? We'd love to hear about them!
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