It’s OK Parents, Be Helicopter-y When it Comes to Social Media & Kids
By: Rachel Sobel
A few years ago, we succumbed to social pressures and let our daughter have TikTok. We were hesitant but also cognizant that TikTok had quickly become a staple of socialization. At recess and at sleepovers, all they did was make or talk about TikToks. Teachers even used it to create fun content to engage their students. Whether intentional or not, our child being among the last to get access to social media was alienated and it sucked.
We let her set up an account and closely monitored it, we weren’t secretive and we didn’t snoop. We made it very clear that social media is a big responsibility and that if she was going to have access, so were we. After a few months we had a couple of incidents with mean kids and also noticed that there was way too much questionable content in the main feed. We had many conversations and decided that TikTok’s time had already run its course, for now at least. We explained to our daughter that we were going to take a break. It wasn’t a punishment and she had not done anything wrong. She followed our rules and did everything we asked, but it was too much. We knew it was completely unrealistic to think that social media wouldn’t eventually play a role in her life because it’s EVERYWHERE. If we could just hold out a little bit longer, she would be more mature, and maturity is key to a healthy relationship with social media.
A couple of years later, the begging for Snapchat began, and again, we said no. When I tell you that she was literally the last person of her friends/acquaintances without social media, I am not exaggerating. Once again, social media took center stage, and she was left out because we wouldn’t allow it.
She heard our concerns and actually put together a presentation through a letter detailing why she thought she should have it, and how she would cooperate with us to do it the right way. It was clear that while she didn’t like our stance, she understood it. Together we decided to use it as motivation to focus harder on her schoolwork and bring her grades up. And wouldn’t you know, it did the trick.
I won’t lie and say that I was any more comfortable handing her the keys to her social media kingdom the second time. But I also know that it’s ingrained in their culture. Even her cheerleading team uses social media to share details and choreography for the kids to practice. I will tell you that the remaining handful of kids who aren’t allowed to have social media as per their parents, have it anyway though secret accounts they set up without their parents knowledge. And if my kid was going to have an account I didn’t want her to rebel and do it anyway, secretly.
My advice to parents around social media is to be involved on some level. Have conversations about it… a lot of them. Your kids may roll their eyes, but they are hearing more than you think. Teach them how to handle different behaviors from friends and peers. Have honest dialogue about the dangers lurking on social media and how to stay safe. Don’t lecture, rather, talk about it together and emphasize that you are a safe space so that they feel comfortable coming to you with questions.
We felt strongly that open communication and transparency was the only way for us to all be on the same page with her social media access. Is it a little helicoperty?! Absolutely, and I am not sorry at all because I see what some of these kids post knowing their parents don’t check their accounts and it makes me cringe. From inappropriate dancing, to fully weaponizing it to bully other kids, it’s a social cesspool. Some may call me strict, but I call this move smart. These kids are too young to understand all of the intricacies of the situations that are bound to arise on social media and if I am going to let my kid be involved, I’m going to do my absolute best to guide her through it and make sure she’s armed with the knowledge to navigate it on her own in the coming years.
She will make mistakes and so will I, but we will learn together and I consider that a parenting win.