should my 13 year old have instagram

Should my 13 Year Old have Instagram?


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.

10 comments on “Should my 13 Year Old have Instagram?”

  1. We are not there yet, Leigh, but I would love to heat your take/strategy on all things media because we have a lot of respect for you and Eric.


  2. Leigh, my kids don’t have phones, nor do they need them. (13,11&7). They definitely don’t need social media. My 13 year old has an iPad and can contact his friends that way if needed(from home) We monitor all texts. Sounds harsh to some, but it works for us…If they need to call us, phones abound.
    Hang in there!!
    PS I made your marinated flank steak the other day. Tasty as always!


    1. Thanks Fran–SO glad to know your kids don’t have phones either. They don’t look like they are missing a thing in life at all. We also monitor all texts. It never occured to me how much micro management was going to go into this. Good to know we are like-minded for our kids’ good.
      Miss you…i need that flank steak!! thanks for reminding me to make it. 🙂


  3. My 14 yr old daughter is in 8th grade & has begged & pleaded for both Snapchat & Instagram. Her argument was the same, it’s the only way her friends will communicate. About two years ago we tried allowing IG with me having her account also on my phone. We found that there is no way to control what others are posting & therefore showing up in your feed. She had tons of friend request from strangers & it just got to the point where I deleted the account. As for Snapchat, the horror stories I’ve heard Make me want to cry. Peer pressure & the need to fit in is so powerful at this age. Even the best kid in the world can be affected by it. There’s a section called “Discover” on Snapchat & just scrolling through it right now I see so many articles & pictures that my daughter doesn’t need to be exposed to.

    My sister-in-law is in her early twenties & is a youth group leader for high school girls. I made a FB post about this very topic last summer & she sent me a PM:
    Just saw your story about ‘being the mean mom’ on FB. Didn’t want to comment publically for my High school girls’ privacy, but being around a bunch of “good, church girls” who are usually at church every week, I can tell you nothing good happens on snapchat. (And IG has it’s own share of issues )I’m sure downloading snapchat probably starts off as innocent, but it ends far from there. The things my girls say blow me away. I also wanted to encourage you for being the awesome mom and rule-maker you are!!! I wish more parents would be! Keep it up!

    Sorry for the long post but this topic really hit home for me. It is a real struggle to hold your kids back from things everyone else is doing. It debate the pros & cons constantly & want to give in knowing the cons outweigh the pros because I want her to be happy. But in good conscience I just can’t.


    1. Sarah, thank you for sharing your experience. It is so good to know I am not the only one saying no to my young teenager. WHen I found out that insta was the main source of my kids’ friends messaging, I was simply disheartened. I am sorry, I just can not allow it, and I am sorry that text messaging is a less popular messaging platform.

      There is so much inappropriate and salacious content on Instagram–I heard someone call it “instaporn” and she is not wrong! I have come across some horrible images on there **accidentally** and so I can only imagine the content one might find if you were seeking it out. I do like instagram. there is a lot of good on there, and I can handle it. But I think it is asking too much of a child to be able to field all the content, the self image pressures, the array of confusing messages, etc… before that prefrontal cortex is finished developing…(the part of the brain responsible for planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior.)

      It’s wonderful to know that other moms get it, and are standing strong in the face of the pressure to allow it.


  4. You are not alone. I regularly put my kids on a social media and device ‘diet’. I change passwords regularly on Instagram so I have to log them in. I take both kids phones at 8:30p every night. I follow my kids on Instagram as well. We’ve seen too many negatives with Instagram, Snapchat and mobile devices in general. In our School District there have been multiple suicides related to social medial bullying. Kudos to you for taking the hard road. It works. I used to get resistance but now my boys know the drill and succumb. Train their brain correctly, build the good habits, and they will be immune to social media peer pressure. Take it from the mom of a 16yr old, hormonal “mean’ager. 😉 Helicopter away! You can do it without smothering your kids.


    1. Mindy, thank you for sharing. I am so bummed about all the links my son gets sent to his phone through WhatsApp and messenger. He doesnt even have to go looking for things, it just comes right to him. My kids are younger (13,11) and they are rather compliant with our rules and restrictions, and we are completely candid about the why. I will be helicoptering in this realm, I have no regrets about it, and like I said, looking for every other yes I can find. 🙂 I like what you are doing about having their password…great idea!


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