Each time I asked my 13-year-old daughter what she wanted for Christmas, her answer was always the same: Instagram. Every time she said it, my heart sank. I told her it was just about the one thing I could not in good conscience “give” to her. Instagram doesn’t feel like a good gift. It’s the complete opposite–it feels like much would be taken away from her.
Her time. Her attention. Her contentment. Her presence of mind. Her self-confidence. Her brain-development. Her relationships with her siblings. Her sense of wonder in 3D world. Her innocence. With all that, you would think this decision is a total no-brainer: not no, but HELL no.
Yet was so hard for me to say no for one big reason: kids these days are using Instagram for their primary source of messaging. I do NOT want to cut my children off from their friends. But—am I in a quandary? Is this truly a difficult dilemma? When I stare at the laundry list of cons, why does that one solitary “pro” even appeal?
Giving our young kiddos full access to smartphones and social media goes against so much common sense. We know it’s true. Yet as parents, we are all tempted to just roll over. Why? It seems like the old “if everyone else jumps off the bridge, are you gonna jump too?” …on a societal scale.
The temptation to just go ahead and jump off this bridge feels so strong…it feels like we are being pushed and overrun in a stampede toward…toward what? Why is everyone else jumping? Why are so many of the other 13-year-olds on Instagram? Honestly, I want to know. If I need to be softened in this area, I am asking for counsel.
My children’s mental, emotional and spiritual well-being is the principal concern of my adulthood. If Instagram threatens that, why is this decision so difficult? My husband and I have put loads of energy into maintaining our kids-on-media game plan. It’s a team effort…and it’s been a painfully unpleasant parenting challenge to draw a line in this sand.
Why is it hard? For one thing, it feels like a deprivation. And, perhaps I am projecting my own subconscious/latent fear of missing out. Also, these devices buy us so much quiet, imminent peace and space–but at what cost to their growth? Giving in, and giving them over to their juvenile longings is easier than listening the begging. It’s also easier than feeling bad for them.
Since I have said no to Instagram, I am digging for as many yeses as I can. I gotta get creative!
My generation of parents have an infamous reputation for helicopter parenting. But it’s crickets in this area. It’s bananas. Are we so busy looking at our own screens that we can’t be bothered to take measures to protect our babies from device and social media addiction? Are we ignoring common sense because it’s inconvenient?
I have asked my friends about their standards for their kiddos’ smartphone/social media use, and I’ve gotten such a mixed response. Generally, other parents’ main point is that their kids need to be able to call/message them. Really? That’s kind of a weak argument. They need a smartphone for that? There is a phone in every human hand: my kids can get a hold of me instantly, anytime.
And the fear that kids need to be up-to-date on technology? Um, iPhones don’t take very long to master. I’m pretty sure they’re intentionally devised to ensure we all stay sheep…the whole scheme is set up so that we won’t have to apply a spark of brain energy to operate them.
It does, however, take years of deliberate coaching for a child to reach social and emotional maturity. Unless…I find something on the app store that can advance a child’s self-control, identity and character. Man, when that exists, then I guess we will all be home free. Until then, it’s still on me.
But this is good work. It’s a long game, but not that long. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Hear my heart: If you don’t feel convicted against your children using Instagram, I understand. These things are personal and I don’t believe one size fits all. BUT, if you are like me and you do feel a personal conviction about this…I had to let you know–you’re not alone in holding the line.
P.S. We’ve not completely cut the kids off–they do have access to devices, but we have substantial boundaries in place. I can let you in on the strategies we have chosen in a post to follow, if anyone is interested.