Thursday, April 18, 2013

Parents: A Word about Instagram

To the parents of middle-schoolers on Instagram:
 
 

There is so much information out there about internet safety and you should definitely read up on that, but that's not what I want to talk about.

Over the past several months, I've been noticing some interesting stuff on Instagram from your kids that I want to share with you.

"Hey, weirdo, why are you following my kids?" Good question, and I'll get to that.

I am 25 years old, which is not just a fun fact, but important in the history of social media. MySpace started during my high school years, and Facebook started the year I went to college (when it was still just a site just for college students). So while my generation didn't grow up with it, we were the first to use it. We're bilingual, in a sense.

Your kids, on the other hand, don't know a life without it and you're doing your best to learn and keep up with it. So would you mind too terribly much if I acted as a bridge for a second? Give you some thinking material?

Let me back up.

My husband and I, along with our friends Kylie and Trenton, help in the youth ministry at our church. (Shoutout to the GREATEST 6TH GRADERS EVER!)

Several months ago, Kylie and I were asked to talk to the 8th graders at the middle school girls' sleepover.

The topic was "Finding your identity in Christ".

I would have much rather talked to them about sex or drugs or something, because those are pretty concrete topics. We'd stand up and say, "Don't do it." End of talk. It would be so moving we'd be asked back to speak at every event, naturally.

Instead, we were tasked with talking about something that a lot of adults I know don't even know how to apply in their own lives.

What even is identity? And how do you talk to a group of middle school girls about finding their identity in an invisible God? And if they aren't finding their identity in Him, where are they finding it?

After much thought and prayer, we decided to talk about something we know: social media. We talked about Instagram specifically, since a lot of these girls aren't on Facebook yet and think Twitter is stupid.
 
I'm sure you're aware of Instagram if your kids are on it, but if not, here's a rundown of the app:

1. Your child gets an account and starts following other users.
2. In return, other users follow your child.
3. Your child posts a picture to his or her account.
4. Other users comment or "like" the picture.
5. Repeat. 87 times a day.

an example: left is my Instagram profile; right is the photo feed of all posted pictures

I love the app. It's a lot of fun, but there are some components to it that I'm not sure we've thought all the way through.

Think back to when you were in junior high. How did you know you were "cool"? A popular girl probably wrote you a note and put it in your locker or asked you to sit with her at lunch, right? There were a few eyewitnesses and it was pure joy.

Do you remember back-to-school shopping? You bought the trendiest new shirts and shoes. But how did you know if your new shirt was cute? Someone told you, probably. How did you know if your new shirt was hideous? Again, someone probably told you. Or made fun of you, but luckily it was just between you and that person. Or - worst case scenario - between you and that person and their posse. Still, not life altering.

That was then.

This is now:

Your middle schooler buys a new shirt and what's the first thing she does? Takes a selfie (self-portrait, for those out of the loop) and posts it on Instagram.

Think I'm joking?

A quick search of Instagram shows us... oh, look! - this was posted 18 minutes ago:


Ok, so not a big deal, this is how the world is. Your kids feel the need to share every single decision they ever make with the world at large. It's just "kids these days".

It's true. It is "kids these days". But does the feedback they receive on Instagram impact them? Do you think they base their identity in it?

What happens when your daughter's new shirt picture didn't get as many "likes" or comments as the picture her friend posted of her new shirt?

Do you think she even cares about that stuff?

Yea, I'd say so. Your sons do, too:


This guy specifically asks for comments AND a certain number of likes. 40, to be exact.

[Side note: don't forget to read what your kids post in the hashtags of their photos. (That's the # sign with a bunch of words crammed after it, like #40likesplease.) They use it as an aside comment, which, parents, is just as important to pay attention to as the photo caption.]

We're no longer in world of handwritten "circle yes or no" notes between two people; your kids are living social lives on a completely public forum.

This is not new information.

But, taking it a step further: have you considered that your child is given numerical values on which to base his or her social standing? For the first time ever your children can determine their "worth" using actual numbers provided by their peers!

Let me explain...

Your daughter has 139 followers which is 23 less than Jessica, but 56 more than Beau. Your son's photo had 38 likes which was 14 less than Travis' photo, but 22 more than Spencer's.

See what I mean? There's a number attached to them. A ranking.

And if you think they don't actually pay attention to this stuff, read the hashtags on these photos:
 
sorry for the ghetto circlage, but you get the point.

Do you see what's happening? #3newfollowers, #77likes #i#am#so#popular, #morefollowersplease

They're definitely paying attention. And it's definitely affecting them.

It's not just about assumed popularity anymore. It's explicit. It's quantifiable.

At arguably the most awkward time in their lives, a crucial time of development when they are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong, this is what they're up against. A quantifiable popularity ranking.

So, back to the lesson we were supposed to teach. I started thinking about everything I've mentioned above and thought, "Maybe our girls are different. Maybe their faith buffers them from being caught up as deeply in this as their friends."

Wrong.

In talking to our girls, I was blown away by their responses:

They know exactly - to the digit - how many followers they have (and who they follow that isn't following them back). They get their feelings hurt when the popular kids "like" the pictures above and below theirs on the Instagram newsfeed, but not their picture. They delete pictures of themselves when they don't get as many likes as they were hoping for. They don't get invited to parties, but see all the fun they missed out on in every photo posted from it. They post ugly pictures of their friends to get revenge for some heinous act they committed (like saying Louis is their favorite One Direction member).

Whoa.

Before we all freak out and delete Instagram and all other social apps, may I just say (with approximately zero authority or expertise on the subject):

This is no cause for mass hysteria. My intent is not to scare you away from these sites, because I don't think the solution is to write them off entirely. This is a part of your kids' communication that is here to stay. (I don't just mean Instagram - it could die tomorrow. But social media? It's here for good, in some form or fashion.)

Remember: social media can be SO FUN. (I know you love you some Pinterest, girl.)

Plus, not all kids are the same. Some place an unhealthy amount of self worth in their social media accounts, some could care less about it. Regardless, it's important to think about no matter where your children fall on the spectrum.

My intent is to dig a little deeper into the impact these sites can have on your kids. To start thinking about how to safeguard childrens' hearts and minds against what appears to a 12 year old to be concrete numerical evidence about their value and popularity.

How do you regulate activity on these sites while keeping it fun for your kids? How do you talk to them about the numbers (likes, comments, followers) provided by their peers not being an accurate representation of their value and worth? How do you teach them to base their identity solely in Christ - to be confident daughters and sons of the King?

I have no idea.

I can tell you what we talked about with our 8th grade friends:

We talked about posting photos of things other than themselves, to avoid setting themselves up for insecurity about their appearance. We talked about guarding their hearts with scriptures from God's Word and reminding themselves whose they were. We talked about inner beauty and encouraging their friends' strengths and...a whole host of other stuff.

What we said isn't really important. What's important is where you come in, parents. You know your kids and you know the insecurities they face.

I hope this information is helpful for you, or at least gets you thinking. Or, if all else fails, got you to smile at my own Instagram picture of my son in his Little Tikes truck at Sonic. You know that's cute.

I love your kids so, so much and I want them to know just how special and wonderful and unique they are. I don't want a stupid thing like followers and likes to tell them any differently.





Update: Hey! Want to read more about this topic? A few more posts that might interest you:

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263 comments:

  1. AMEN!

    You said this all SO well. I am making my mom and dad read this tonight.

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  2. Excellent- couldn't have been better written. This needs to go viral.

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    1. Wouldn't that be ironic

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    2. Yep, it would be ironic. And Irony is a very good teacher.

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  3. Sarah, this is an awesome post. You are such a good writer!

    Ryan and I have been working with the MS/HS kids at our church, and I am blown away at how social media plays into their social lives. (Namely, Instagram!!) All parents should read this!

    I do have to say, Instagram has also helped me to get to know these kids a little better (when they post about other things than Selfie Sunday and new shirts, ha!).

    I'll be sharing this post! (Hope that is OK.)

    Sylvia

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    1. Thanks, Sylvia - and I agree - I love following my kids on Instagram. And Snapchatting with them, which, we won't get into - ha!

      It can be so fun!

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    2. Thank you so much for this! I am a mom of a 6th grade girl and this was very helpful. She also "Snapchats." Could you please tell us about that too? Thanks!

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    3. Jamie - yes! I'll be writing a post for patheos in the next few weeks about SnapChat. Check back in a week or two for a link to that post!

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  4. really thoughtful and well written!
    thank you from a 40-something Children's Pastor

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    Replies
    1. and thank you from a 40-something mom...

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  5. Love this. I hope the 8th grade girls soaked it all up. I have a few middle school girls on my instagram and it makes me cringe some days to look at what they post. I am SO GLAD that it didn't exist when I was that age. Yikes.
    Jordan

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  6. Got the article from Sylvia. I will be sharing it with all my parents and youth ministry friends. Very helpful. Thank you!

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  7. This is probably my favourite post yet, Sarah. Thank you for your thoughts.

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  8. Another great article about Instagram. I recently read the below blog entry that made me aware of how easily porn is available to our kids on Instagram. Just search things like #kikxxx or #dirtykik - KIK is a popular free text messaging app that is popular with kids these days. Please read:

    http://www.johnmyeats.com/1/post/2013/04/saying-no-in-an-instagram-world.html

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  9. Excellent post. I have seen first hand that it isn't just Instagram. They want to get a certain number of likes on FB as well. We are worth so much more than just these numbers. I am going to really stress this fact to the teens I work with. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

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    1. I completely agree! It's not just Instagram, it's all social sites. And, if we're being honest, it's not just middle schoolers who pay attention to that stuff - adults do, too! Thankfully we can realize the futility of it and keep it in perspective (and so can high school teens as they mature), but our middle schoolers...that's where it gets tricky!

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  10. We need to help our children know that just because someone posts or says something negative it doesn't make it so! Ask them if everything that comes out of that person's mouth is true and if any pronouncement they make shakes the world. Our children must learn that all people have opinions even them and they don't change the world but they should remember who they belong to and that they are the children of the King

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  11. This is all true. I have a 9 1/2 year old and thankfully she hasn't asked for a phone and all she knows about instagram is when I say, "smile" ... you're going on instagram. Thanks for the insight that I wouldn't have had with out you and your service to our middles.
    Amy
    http://thesisterslice.com/

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  12. I have actually seen MANY MORE problems with instagram as teens are liking pictures they ought not to be looking at. When you can see what your "following" likes, you may end up looking at things you know you don't need to be looking at. And teens can search hashtags and find things they really don't need to see. I'm not sure how to put restrictions on what teens (or anyone, as I prefer not to see these things) see...but hopefully there is a way or someone will make a way!

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  13. Completely agree. And at least equally, if not even more dangerous, we, our kids, whomever is using these types of technology are becoming more and more enamoured with ourselves, the image of ourselves, our every thought as we post it - if we're not careful. Idolatry at its simplest and best according to the one who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

    For me it is best summed up as this:
    "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen." Romans 1:25

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  14. Thank you, from a mom of a 12-year-old girl who loves Instagram. We talk daily about this and it is my right (and duty) to check on her Instagram feed from time-to-time.

    Well said!

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  15. I cannot adequately express how fantastic this post is. I am sending it to my entire church. Thank you for taking the time to write it and for serving those kids at your church.

    Jason
    Children & Student Minister
    Manhattan Church of Christ

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  16. Wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing it. As the mom of a 5th grader and a social media PR professional, I found it very useful and comforting. Helping my daughter balance her use of social media is a major priority for me as is helping her see herself through God's eyes. Thank you for showing this is possible.

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  17. From a mom of a 13yo son and 11yo daughter, I applaud you.
    My kiddos currently do not have any social media accounts.
    She had an Instagram, but I deleted it because of many reasons above. She is constantly asking and asking for it again (because so many friends are on there) - but quite honestly, for this season I'm not interested. I see things both their friends post on FB and IG and everywhere else and it is not something I want to toss them in the middle of right now. (re: much of it, I want to call their parents!) We for sure can't protect them from everything in the world, but that doesn't mean we have to allow them access to all of it either.
    Great words, girlfriend. (and yes, I do love me some Pinterest!)

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    1. I'd call their parents. I once found a kid's cell phone number as public as it could be on fb. I emailed her mother to let her know the kid's info was out there. Mom was thankful, the phone number disappeared quickly. Mom just plain didn't know!

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    2. "We for sure can't protect them from everything in the world, but that doesn't mean we have to allow them access to all of it either."

      This is by far the best statement I've read pertaining to kids and media. Thank you!

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  18. Great and very timely commentary. I have a 7th grade girl and an 11th grade girl--both on Instagram more than any other social media. I would only add that it's important to check out who your child is "liking" and "following" on Instagram as well. You can tell a lot about where your kid's identity is too in who they are attracted to. I've had to go in and delete certain people they are following as they were not representative of girls/boys who honor their bodies (show too much skin, etc.). I've had to talk to my youngest about being careful about who she follows because it affects her integrity as a Christ follower. I can't put her in a bubble (although I wish I could), but I can teach her to begin to make healthier choices and try to protect her eyes and ears as much as possible--to learn walk away from people/things/images that would not honor Christ.

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  19. Way to go, loved this! Shaunti Feldhahn shared this on FB and I'm so glad she did. Thank you!!

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  20. Thank you for this super great article. I found it via a friend who mentioned it on FB (there's social media at it's finest). It covers an aspect that I would never have thought of on my own. I find it crazy that kids care that much about numbers, but appreciate the insight so we can be more thoughtful about saying yes or no to Instagram. It's still up for debate in our house. Thank you!

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  21. I reluctantly allowed my daughter to get an Instagram account. It has allowed her to bond with friends and discover common interests that don't come up during school. However, I did talk to her about safety and let her know that I would be monitoring the account. She only follows/lets follow people that she knows personally (and not their pets, etc). We discussed how people hide behind social media - they present an image of themselves they want others to believe. More than likely, if a kid has 500+ followers, it is not because they are "popular" - they are just allowing everybody and anybody to follow them. My daughter has had many requests from "celebrity" looking profiles. Scary to think who these people really are.

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  22. Thank you for such an informative article. Our household is still in the stoneages. We do not even allow TV on school nights. We have a 12 1/2 year old, 10 year old, and 9 year old. I am not naive to think they are not experiencing social media elsewhere. I try to always remind them, though, of who defines them. Does the mean boy's words define them..no. Does the new dress define them....no. God defines them. It is an ever changing, uncertain world we are "renting". Keep it up!

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  23. This was very enlightening. Very well written! I have an 11 year old that has been asking about Instagram. I used to be so tech savvy and felt like I was always in the loop. Now, at 40, and a dad of 2, I feel WAY out of the loop and have to have my 14 year old show me how to use my phone, computer, iPad, and various apps. My kids are now my "in-house tech support" . So this was definitely an eye-opener. Thank you for posting!

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  24. This article is amazing. You are wise beyond your years. I myself have had some of these same feelings (sad if I don't get many likes, feeling left out looking at pics of friends at a party, or a friend's beautiful home...) and I'm a mom in my mid-thirties. So I can see how it would be dangerous for young teens already struggling with their self-worth. Things have changed so much since I was a kid...we saw our friends at school and called them later on the home phone. Social media is fun, but also complicates things. I'm not looking forward to my kids growing up in this generation, but hopefully there will be other parents out there taking a stand and being involved in their kids' lives!

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    1. Yes! To all of this. I'm a thirty-something who needed the reminder of Who my identity is in--just as much as any teenager. :) My children are 3, 4 and 5 and I shudder to think about what things will be like by the time they're in middle school, but am confident in the sovereign God who places us exactly where He wants us and when. He will equip us to raise children in this generation/culture. Thanks so much for this post!

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  25. Wise counsel, Niece Sarah. Love you. Aunt Linda

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  26. This is all so true. Another danger is how quickly information gets out. Our sons 18 & 13 were in a car crash & my 18 yr old & I were in the ER when he saw a picture of his brother on IG . It was the first time he had seen him since they life-flighted him to the hospital and it was shocking because he was not expecting it. I think it is very important to talk with our kids about being sensitive to others in what they post and not putting out what family members have not released. We have learned from our oldest and now we hold the passwords to all social media and go over the accounts as well as texts with our younger kids. Social media is fun but it is a privilege. The other thing kids are doing is "rating" each other. They put up 4 pics and the one with the most likes wins...how awful to be in an online beauty/popularity pageant without even knowing.

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  27. Great commentary - well written and profoundly accurate. I stumbled upon (like the old school definition...) this post and thank you for sharing your insight. Awesome and very relevant for all young folks.
    Your advice and logic will follow me in the coming years while talking to my now 6 year old about being proactive with regard to social media.
    Thanks Sarah!

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  28. Fantastic advice... Instagram is critical for parents to understand.

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  29. Your thoughts and insight are much appreciated, especially from a Christian perspective. The ensuing comments have been great too. Two 'timeless' issues strike me about this discussion, the need to understand today's communication channels and the need to be actively involved in our kids' lives.

    Our kids are not social media users yet (under 7) but my wife and I are. As Christ followers, we are intentionally using various social channels (especially Instagram) to communicate God's story through ours and as a springboard to real-life connection. For every technology and cultural trend, God's people can and should understand and use them for good.

    The channels/platforms WILL CHANGE but when our kids are ready to engage in the communication channel du jour, we'll do our best to impart that philosophy.

    Being actively involved in our kids' lives means different things. However, there's no substitute for knowing who your kids hang out with and are influenced by, in real-life and virtually.

    @dudelum

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  30. brilliant. i have recently heard that teens are using instagram to communicate to each other instead of facebook - because parents have invaded facebook.
    i have 3 teens at my house. and we all love social media - i love having pics of them, knowing what they are into.
    today i had m son take a photo of the friends he was with and text it to me, just to make sure...

    we did make a new rule that has been so lifegiving for our family: phones up and on the counter at 6pm... that may seem early or extreme, but the reality is, i think they are relieved.
    also - no phones in their rooms.

    clearly... this was because there were some poor choices being made that pushed us to make this decision... and i'm so glad.

    from your article, the immediate change i'm going to make in our family: only 1 selfie per day... that should help things... and push their creativity. and cut down on the "like" counting... great article.

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    1. Robyn, your rule about phones on the counter at 6 is a GREAT IDEA! I have 3 little ones- our oldest is just 9. But he has an ipod and would be on it all day if I let him. I'm enforcing that rule- for ME TOO!!! I'm the worst culprit of all!
      Thank you for that great idea- it will come in handy again and again and again as the years go by!

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  31. Found great success with our 12 year old and her account. Rule #1 - Dad gets to "creep" on your account whenever he wants. He goes through the account every couple days - usually together and asks questions or explains things. This has generated some great discussions about what is posted, what is seen from other posts, and the harmful effects of some (or at least how context and perception play into it). Topics have ranged from picture content to bad language to peer pressure and dares to bullying to beauty contests. Social media, as described above, is here to stay, and you can only shelter your kids so much. Make sure you get involved and stay abreast of what's going on.

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    1. Yes! The issues of the day DO come up in social media, and going through it together is awesome. Dad isn't just creeping around as if looking for something to punish -- an easy perception -- but rather recognizing these as part of his daughter's life and looking at those things intentionally with her. The approach you describe sounds like it would give opportunity for mutual input of perspective, with each having something significant to offer.

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  32. You a very wise for your years! And it sounds like you are going to have some good level headed advice for YOUR son as he grows. You hit the nail on the head when you said the key is where the parents come in. Too many parents are overworked and overstressed and they expect someone like YOU (or the church or their school teachers) to teach them some of life's harder lessons. Parenting is a HANDS ON" job! The more involved the parent is with their child - especially their teenagers- the better that parent/child relationship, the better their communication (being comfortable enough to share what and how they are feeling) the stronger the bond. The stronger the parent bond I think the less likely they will be to put an unhealthy importance to things like INSTAGRAM. Kids, of all ages, are looking for approval and acceptance and when they find that at with their parents and at home and extended family, they will be less likely to search for that acceptance from outside sources! Hope my children will be able to keep this in mind as they raise my grandchildren. Parenting has changed dramatically! Soooooo many more issues to worry about - it's not "your mama's world anymore"! Parents, it isn't enough to love your children . . . you need to be able to talk to them about ANYTHING - and YES! that makes many of us uncomfortable but you need to gut it up and try to be as objective as you can - and back up your "no"s with Biblical priciples and your "yes"s with examples of Biblical blessings for obedience! Good luck to all parents raising kiddos in this complicated world.

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  33. Great article! LOTS of middle school kids are on Twitter though...and trying to get followers. And now, the "latest" craze (where there are hardly any grownups right now) is TUMBLR... Yeah, my kid is on FaceBook, but doesn't have Instagram because she doesn't have a smart phone or iPod/iPad...but she would be if she could!

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  34. Good article. One thing I don't see mentioned is how a lot of people, when they set up Instagram, enable the app to add the geolocation to their photos. This lets you see your photos on a map in the Instagram app. But this location data isn't just available to you or Instagram. They make it available to anyone via the Instagram API (Application Programming Interface).

    I built a web app last year that uses this information to show Instagram photos on an actual map. Usually it's just photos of people's cats and dogs. But occasionally I've noticed photos like those in this article. The web app is here if you're curious: http://instaspotting.herokuapp.com

    Thanks for writing this!

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    1. I'm not sure it's a good idea to enable geolocation, especially for kids. Don't you know that child predators can now locate specific kids by this app and "hang out" where they hang out. Honestly, I don't know why people want to constantly post up where they and their children are, doesn't make sense to me, but just my 2¢.

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  35. Spot on. Most adults can't emotionally handle 24/7 social media so I know our kids can't.

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  36. Such good wisdom! Thank you!

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  37. Thank you!! As a parent of a 6th grader who just started using this app, I appreciate this heads up! She and I will have some conversations on this topic...

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  38. great post!!! my girls don't have instagram or FB or any of that yet - but I know it's coming and this is great advice!!

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  39. This is so well-written and thought provoking, especially in light of the recent case in CA, where a girl killed herself after drinking too much and being sexually assaulted at a party, then seeing evidence of her attack on FB. Thanks for writing this!

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  40. I bet you talk was excellent. Thank you for the write up that I can share on my social network. :-)

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  41. While I agree with many of your thoughts, there are so many competing Internet sites AND smart-phone Apps that they cannot all be partaken of by the masses - there just isn't that many hours in the day. Some will fade (MySpace is a prime example), some will flounder, some will become THE Place to be - for awhile, and many new ones will try to cash in. These are fads of the day (or for a few years, the kids do grow tired of them). The more you can get your kids involved in serving others, being face-to-face with people (of all ages AND the poor and down-trodden), and in the outdoors/sports, instead of being glued to the computer/ smartphone - the better they will turn out. Also, their choice of music stamps its impression into their brains, so monitor it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXt7xGzmw60

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  42. I wonder how many pedophiles and predators are also watching your kids.
    Teaching middle school has shown me how vicious young boys and girls can be,
    and what type of destructive photos they post of others.
    Think back about the young girl how just committed suicide last week. It was
    social media and cruelty that sent her over the edge.
    I'm sorry, but come on young parents, this is just another way to exploit children.

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    1. I would say come on "OLD PARENTS" the older generation is less likely to check what their child is doing on that iPhone 5 that you just purchased the kid for good grades. Why you ask, I would make that statement.... You don't know how to use technology and have to ask your kid!!! As a youngish parent, I have more knowledge about social media, oh and the other plus in my house is that MY HUSBAND IS YOUR CHILD'S TECHNOLOGY TEACHER (MIDDLE SCHOOL - HIGH SCHOOL). In our house we talk daily about TEACHERS who 40 plus in age who are clueless about technology, and need constant "assistance"!

      Pedophiles and predator watched children and women long before social media was ever invented!!!!!! I would say that it is not fair to say only social media is the cause and the same for teen suicide and bullying ! Those are issues that have been apart of our society prior to social medeia , and are a result of lack PARENTING and extended community involvement in the lives of people. Social Media can now shine a bright light on those issued because how fast information can now be shared.

      I am of the "It takes a village to raise a child" thinking. Everyone on here is trying to give each other helpful ideas to live in this ever changing world that will forever involve the internet, some form of social media and children. With all things comes good and evil. Please be a person of encouragement. I am sure you did not like the "attack" approach in the start of this reply, but that is how you ended your statement! Don't be judgmental. I expect more from an educator of the very children we are all aiming to protect.

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    2. Not only do parents need to be EDUCATED about the potential harms of social media - but so do our children. And we need to start the education around fifth grade. They need to be taught in a way they can understand and relate. This teaching should continue throughout high school for it to make a difference. In addition, new laws need to be passed as well - to equip our school administrators with more ways to protect students... Not only are "older parents" behind, but so are our school systems!! I speak from experience. You have not said anything that isn't true, but you aren't an "older parent" either who has scrambled to try to learn something you know nothing about. You are so right - that it truly takes a village (parents, teachers, administrators, the church, community, law enforcement, judicial system, etc) to keep our children safe!!

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  43. I love what you said at the end - post pictures other than yourself. Post pictures of you with your friends, post pictures of beautiful scenery, your family - while it's not bad to post pictures of yourself, posting pictures of other things also helps you to look outside of yourself, to learn to appreciate other things, and to share those things and your love of them with others. I am 26, so right in the same time frame as you, and I love the emphasis pictures have in our society because it helps us to capture our lives for our posterity - but as you've pointed out here, it can also have a very negative impact if we forget to focus on Christ.

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  44. Amen! Every parent should read this! Thanks for sharing hopefully more people and parents will see and read and be informed.

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  45. I love this! Thank you for writing this.

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  46. Sarah - I don't know how else to contact you, but I wanted to tell you thanks for this blog article. Although I do most of my work with men and women and marriages, I have also done a lot of work and research with teens and pre-teens and I instantly felt that this article of yours was gold. I linked to it on my facebook account, and it has gotten the largest response of any article I have ever recommended (as far as I know), reaching almost 70,000 people as of a few minutes ago. I know you may not get a lot of feedback day to day except within your church and your family, but I wanted you to know that this is incredibly insightful and really helps me both professionally (as a researcher and author) and personally (as a mom of a 10 and 12 year old). :-) Thanks for your work and ministry!

    - Shaunti

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  47. Great Article. As a parent of a teen, tween and younger, it is hard to stay on top of all the technology AND its consequences. I know so many parents are not in the technology loop and are really hurting because of it. Thank you for writing this and sharing it.

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  48. I have a 9 yr. old daughter who has an FB account, but only I have the password; she cannot log herself in. On the other hand, I'm the uncle of 3 teenagers (16, 17 & 18) who all have FB accounts. The deal with their parents was "Give us the login info and you can have an account". I'm "friends" with them all and help monitor what's being posted. However, FB has an option to hide posts from certain people, so their parents having access to their accounts is the only true way to check up on them. The kids also have phones WITHOUT data plans (text and phone only) so they must post from another source; PC, friend's phone, etc... This helps limit the number of posts.

    Great post. Great info. Great insight. Thank you.

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    1. I just checked my niece's and nephew's FB accounts; and totaled up their "friends": 2,107! Really?! The 17 yr. old has 1,164. I'm not sure how that's possible. I think this is another example how popularity can be measured with numbers.

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    2. BTW--one kid may have multiple accounts. So, he might have one with his normal name, one with an alternate spelling, one with a crazy completely different "alter ego", one for not being himself, and one for his dog. So, 30 people could easily be 100 "Facebook Friends". Not to say that kids don't know too many people virtually that they don't know in real life, but some of those accounts are probably the same person.

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  49. Thanks heaps for this very informative article. My husband and I are grandparents and trying to keep up with "social media" and how and extrapolate the affect on this age group. It is a real concern. One of the ways that we can all help is by spreading awareness. I also quietly monitor the Grandkids accounts (if I am friended :-))and am on the alert for anything concerning. Thanks again - will share this...

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    1. Way to go Grandparents!!!! In my family we call family and friends like you the FACEBOOK POLICE!!! :) <3 My 13 year old has been "caught" by FBP (Facebook Police) by a family member on the other side of the world. It keeps them on their toes and let's them know how many people really love <3 and care about their well being! Good Job and a great way to be a support to your child, the parent!!

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  50. I really thought I was savvy with Facebook. As an author, now I have to have twitter and probably instagram. I really feel out of the loop as a 45 yr old but I have 5 kids and they kind of force me to stay current. I will say though that I had NO idea about how social media could affect them until I read this!!

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  51. This is probably one of the most informative articles I have read about this subject, but there is one point that you didn't cover, which is who is following your kids. I make it a regular practice to check not only who my followers are on instagram, but also who they follow - ie men who follow me, and also teenage girls generally get blocked and reported. Additionally, kids post things with hashtags which then become searcheable by anyone who wants to do so, and there are pages which do "shoutouts" of people who post specific things. A lot of teenage girls are ending up getting shoutouts on these pages, which may make these girls feel great about themselves temporarily, but some of the followers on these "shoutout" pages aren't interested in these girls socially. It's a problem that is not as yet properly addressed on instagram, or properly policed, and parents should be aware of these things.

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  52. Excellent post! You knocked it out of the ballpark! I'm a little (OK, maybe more than a little) older than you. I have a child who was born before we used AOL and some born as social media came on the scene. Just yesterday, I was talking with my 13 year old about the EXACT thing you mentioned...how many instagram followers she has and how many her best friend has, how she deleted a pic because she didn't get a certain # of likes. And we had the same discussion you had with your girls. I've "commissioned" my daughters to be and make disciples, so to speak, with their social media sites. It's often hard to speak words of truth face to face with friends. When I encouraged them to use their sites to uplift and encourage others in Christ, I discovered a wealth of spiritual depth and wisdom I didn't know was there. The beauty of social media among teens, is if they have a healthy identity in Christ, they can use it as their platform to proclaim Him and the glorious work He's done in their lives. Many of my own friends are blessed and ministered to by my kids' posts. Thank you for writing this. And especially thank you for hanging out with middle school girls. I have 3 of my own. They're a weird breed, but I love them dearly! Middle school ministry is the BEST!!

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    1. YES! Amen amen amen. Other parents take note! Thank you for sharing what social media can look like when used for good. And thanks for encouraging your kids to use it that way!!

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  53. I so agree....I have 2 teenage boys, 1 that is all about social media (FB, Instagram, & twitter) & 1 that could care less( he has an FB acct. but never uses it). The key is to follow ur kids & have open, honest, Christ centered convos with them daily. Our boys know all about the junk in our trunks & they know they can come to us without condemnation &they do often. COMMUNICATION is the key at every age!

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  54. Sarah,

    Excellent job! Well written -- well thought through.

    An additional comment to parents (as a parent): My son went through the Harry Potter stage -- the books came out when he was in elementary school. Many of my peers decided on banning the books from their children for various reasons -- mostly religious. I decided to tackle the issue -- for religious reasons. If God's Word is true, then I should be able to help my son evaluate these books according to God's love and His guidance for us.

    We read the books together and then discussed the characters' behavior. Some behaved well -- some badly. But these discussions put the right focus on the learning. We evaluated the quality of the writing as well as the behavior of the characters (btw, Harry became a disappointment -- his character doesn't seem to really develop).

    I would encourage parents to "grab the bull by the horns" and get involved with these social media and discuss with your children how they should act and respond to the things they see on the Internet. What Sarah and her husband did is great. But the children will learn MOST in the everyday living of life -- as you help them see God's perspective and love on these social media sites.

    Also, my son taught me a lot from Harry Potter -- your children may very well teach you a lot about how to function in today's society....

    Shalom.

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  55. I'm 13 years old, and I wish that other kids my age would read this. I have an Instagram, but I don't spend a lot of time on it, because honestly, it makes me feel bad. The popular kids always have to most followers, they always have the most likes,and sometimes I think that the only reason they actually post "selfies" is for reasurance and for the comments saying things like "You're so pretty!!"
    Thank you for writing this. I hope it opens up more parents eyes to what kids are posting on the internet, and the real reason they are posting these things.

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    1. Thank you SO so much for your words. It's awesome that you can already recognize how negative social media can make you feel! Don't feel alone in that - adults 4 times your age compare themselves and feel inadequate too, they just don't always like to admit it! (myself included!)

      But, girlfriend, you can be a game changer. Show your friends how awesome and fun Instagram can be without having to post selfies and/or fish for compliments.

      Being a teenager can be hard, but I can already tell you're rocking it out. Keep it up, friend! :)

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    2. Phoebe, you are very insightful. You keep being real, and you will be just fine!

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  56. thanks for this post!
    i'm sure someone's written this above already, but i'm fairly certain that 30 year olds suffer from this as well! i have married friends who get upset when they don't get enough "like"s on the pictures of their kids. (though as a single gal, i gotta say, i simply don't feel like "like"-ing all the bazillion pictures of kids that appear on my feed every 2 seconds). i mean, if i like everything, then i don't really like anything, no? hahaa.

    on a random side note - what font do you use for that "parents: a word about instagram" title? i love it! (not just like!)

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    1. UHHH, yes. Amen to that. Adults can get just as caught up in it, even though we know better. And, as a mom, I'm offended you don't like every picture of every child taking every bath every day. Just kidding. I feel the same. :)

      Random side note answer: Covered by Grace. Isn't it fantastic?!

      Thanks for your comment!

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  57. This is an amazing article ..bless ur ministry ..and please pray for us "parents" as we learn from us post and truly participate. In the lives of our children .. they are our hearts ... <3.
    The response, as an adult, 24/7 media would be too much for us ..?! Wow !!..my thoughts exactly .. and we need a way to soften the 24/7 demands for their attention ...for them to seek God.. post for HIM and know HE loves them..and HE sees their posts too - even when we need to sleep or fail to. BE caught up on all thesocaik media ins/ outs!! Keep educating US , pls !..#theMOMeter #need to keep the temp of all our children's social.media

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  58. Hi! I found my way here via FB, and really appreciate this post. Thank you!

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  59. Great article, wish everyone would read it. Thanks for taking your time to write it.

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  60. I pinned and FB this, in hopes that every parent I know reads it. Thank you for sharing your insight.

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  61. The important thing that social media enables, is for kids to get feedback on a large scale on what kinds of comments, photos and interactions they create. If you haven't taught your child self security, self maturity or self worth, then perhaps they will encounter a rude awakening. In the end, the world is much larger than their group of family and friends that they might encounter on a daily basis, in person. The world is a large place, and all of us need to have the presence and the power to live in it. Keep your kids focused on what is true, useful and right standing in life, and they can make the right decisions about how to deal with the immature, insecure and basic leaches that social media draws out so that they can take advantage of what things social interactions mean in our society, and learn to be productive members of society.

    There are no ends of things for them to encounter, which might alarm you or affect your relationship with them. It's possible for those things to not be issues, if your surround your child with the right love, attention and nurturing. If this service alarms you to a state of panic, you might already be quite far behind the curve...

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  62. Youth Group Leader of Middle School girls over here in PA says, "THANKS!" Dealing with very similar things in our small group and really appreciate your insight and perspective. This is very, very helpful.

    Grateful!

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  63. What a great article - thank you so much - from a parent of 7th & 9th graders! ;)

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  64. Samsung, Apple and Nokia have worked so hard to raise the quality of the built in cameras on their phones only for Instagram to knock down the quality and make these look like faded pictures forgotten in the attic. To see this perverted is not a surprise considering the community that is using it.

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  65. Excellent post. You gave parents many things to think about and didn't even touch on how pimps are now trolling social media looking for their next victim. Teens need to learn safe ways to enjoy social media without setting themselves up.

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  66. ~Thanks for useful tips & info to keep these kids, well, kids for a bit longer. This is a timely reminder for all of us are sons and daughters of the King.~

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  67. Wow. When we think not, God CAN have good timing :) Just read your blog on Instagram. Amazing timing. I'm a 47 year old mom w/5 kids. Last night, we had to take my 13 yr old daughter's iPod and set more rules and boundaries. It's all new to us and I think it safe to say, my generation is writing the rule book just as all this social media develops right before our very eyes. My kids laugh when I tell them that when I was a teenager, my "family's" one cell phone came in the form of a black bag that we pulled out when we were all piling in to our panel-adorned station wagon for a trip, that my high school had one computer in the library, and that social media was defined by us writing a paragraph in our friends' yearbooks. They laugh.....a lot. And of course, I get some eye rolls. Thank you for your post. It is so hard to find the right balance in all this. I don't want to completely take it all away because we all know that could have worse affects but we really are writing the rules and it's not a fun or popular job. I do know my husband and I will lead this quest backed by our Faith. Some days, we feel exhausted and completely frustrated and the only thing we can say is "we just have to pray about it". Thank you. Keep em coming. Know we're out there and listening. It takes a village.....

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  68. Thank you for sharing about this - this is so timely. I volunteer with middle school students and LOVE THEM! and this topic has come up recently with some parents. So i follow some of the students and they follow me... but know what I find interesting? often i'm the only adult on their 'follow me' list. not sure what that means - maybe i'm cool enough or maybe they have blocked their parents. i will have to say when a student decides to 'follow me' i myself, 38 years old get a smile like - yea they think i'm cool. :) But also i have had conversations like i noticed you posted this photo or made this comment (not yelling- just asking) and it has opened doors of communication.

    I think we often tell our kids - look at your worldview and protect your testimony to your friends and people who may not know you. I think often that means - what we say or our language, not necessarily what we are looking/posting online. So in a sense, social media IS our worldview b/c what we like/comment/post is often saying to our friends as well as the rest of social media- this is how I view life right now.

    So thank you again for posting this and it's something that i have felt like we need to discuss with parents, students and ultimately with God.

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  69. I don't know the route of how this landed in my inbox, but I am so thankful it did. I would LOVE for my daughter to be in your 6th grade group. You guys aren't in Beaumont, TX by any chance are you?

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    1. We are not. But if you guys ever find yourselves in DFW, hit us up. I know some pretttty awesome 6th grade girls she can meet! :)

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  70. I have 2 daughters, 9 & 12, who both have an IG account. When they first established them, my biggest concern was privacy. We have a strict rule that you don't let anyone who you don't know in person follow you. And secondly, the ability to monitor...so right away, I also set up my own account. I follow a majority of their friends and watch it all as closely as possible. I frequently check their followers & following lists. I call out inappropriate pictures and comments. We parents have to be present & vigilant.
    But as you spoke about the concept of numerical values of ranking and popularity - WOW! Our jaws dropped and the light bulbs went on! We never really saw it that way. But we are SO glad that you have brought this onto our radar. It will be a part of our conversations.
    And thank you for enlightening us on the lurking evils, while reminding us all it can just be fun. Everything has the potential for both good and evil. I think it's important to help our kids see that and find the balance.
    For us, this has been the first school year at our house with iPods & IG. We started out with a rule of "after homework & chores were done", and it didn't take long for us to change the rule to NO iPods Monday through Thursday....they were just too distracting. Summer vacation is looming and I'm starting to think of the new summer rules to help them learn BALANCE. I like the parent who suggest one "selfie" a day - we can all learn & navigate this together!

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  71. Well stated and oh so true! Thank you for the informative and insightful post. A great read. My daughter is 16 and falls prey to the dark side of social media from time to time - anything from someone in particular not "liking" her photo to not enough likes in general or receiving no comments to mean, hateful comments.

    It's much more complicated these days - bless their hearts. I'm sharing your advice with her.

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  72. AWESOME!!! I have a 12 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. My 9 year old loves video games, but honestly would rather play outside if he has the choice. My daughter on the other hand, seems to constantly be on facebook and/or instagram. When we set up the facebook account, I made it myself. I picked her password (and then shared it with her)and I was the only person allowed to "approve" her friend requests. As she switched schools and is now in public school where I know less of the kids personally, I thought it unfair to continue this way. So, we switched the rule to you can "friend" anyone you want (as long as you know them personally in real life), but choose wisely. If I go on your account and see something posted by one of your friends that is inappropriate, you will lose your facebook privileges completely. This allowed her some independence, but also put some of the responsibility on her about what she sees/does. She cannot control what other people post, but she choose to not "follow" or "friend" that person on social media. I had someone ask me once if I felt guilty "snooping" on my daughter. I responded, not at all. Because there is no "snooping." Right at the beginning we had a discussion about texting and social media: I WILL be looking at/monitoring EVERYTHING. Thanks for your post, it gave me some ideas for discussion topics about not letting social media sites shape her self-view :)

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  73. Thank you for posting! this was sent to me by one of my good friends- because I'm a minister of 3rd-12th grade girls and this is a topic that comes up quite often! Thank you for your insight and I will make sure and pass it on to other female ministers and moms. Thanks again for your words.

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  74. This was awesome!!! Thank you so much!!!!! I, too, work with our youth group and this is a HUGE issue!!! Praying about how to move forward with this!!

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  75. Great post and something that I never thought about. Definitely gonna share!

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  76. Thank you for this. I have a 14 y/o who is very active in the Instagram world. I hate it. I wish it would go away. But I know it won't. Social media has added a very unwanted and quite complicated dimension to parenting. I feel like I'm trying to figure it out every single day.

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  77. Your awesome post was shared by a friend through Facebook... :) I serve alongside a team of other gals in our church's high school ministries and we wish every parent of a student in our youth ministries would read this. But you're right, social media is a great way for us to keep in touch with (and keep an eye on) our girls. Blessings to you all for your service and love of our kids.

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  78. I would say this also holds true for elementary school students. Many of them are connected via social media and have very little structure and guidance on how to use this. Because of their youth, they are unable to maturely handle the rejection or comments made using outlets such as instagram or facebook. I'm going to be referencing this article in a discipleship group for 4th-5th graders I work alongside.

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  79. Great post!! This is actually something to consider. Facebook/Instagram and the former face.com, which was acquired by Facebook are all now the same company. If you are not familiar with face.com (google it), it is currently the largest facial RECOGNITION software company in the world. That's how facebook knows who is in your pictures and suggests who to tag. It's building a GIANT facial AND VIDEO recognition system on your kids' entire life. And we give it all the information in the world...who we know, who our family members are, where we like to go, what we like to read, every interest, every thought, every rant, etc. Think about it...are you comfortable having your child's images scanned down to every minute measurement throughout their entire life? I'm not. That's just creepy. My advice? Keep pictures to one or two until they are 18 and understand the implications of having everything they do out there for future employers cached.

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  80. I agree 100% with everything you've said. I have often pointed out to my daughter how desperate people on Instagram seem and how she doesn't need to beg people to approve of her. That being said, I think so many of these kids are following in their mothers' footsteps. The difference is that moms do it on Facebook. They post selfies when they've gotten their hair done or are in some outfit that they think makes them look especially skinny. I have one FB friend who has posted more pictures of herself in a bikini than she has of both of her kids put together. Then, old friends comment with "Hot Momma!" and "You look just like you did in high school!" and the ever-so-modest moms reply "Aww, thanks!", as if they weren't expecting such praise. Don't get me wrong, I don't post anything that puts me in a negative light, and I am sure that I will struggle with finding my identity in Christ until the day I see Him face to face. But..... it's worth noting that our daughters have seen our FB pages and have watched us take vain selfies, and they are just doing what we've taught them to do.

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    1. Spot on. This is absolutely true and quite humbling to think about. It's easier to talk about how it can affect someone else than to evaluate our own hearts. Thanks for pointing this out - such truth!

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  81. LOVED this. Thank you so much for the article. Sharing now!

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  82. Hey, I just love this post. I was able to read this post as it was shared from a friend of mine. I would like to have permission from you to reprint the article in our church student ministry newsletter. If you would let me know if that would be ok I would appreciate it. We will give you full credit of course. I am the Admin Assist for our ministry. Thanks so much.

    shelley.rappe@fbcmoore.org

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  83. Thank you very much for eloquently stating this issue. As a parent, I've noticed my 6th grade daughter's self-worth defined by "likes" and hashtags for sometime now. As much as I talk with her to explain that self worth comes from other things like contributions to society & meaningful, kind, respectful relationships, I realize that she is tuning me out and just thinks I "don't get it." It's very frustrating. I look forward to hearing more about the solutions to this growing issue. Stating the issue is the first step in creating solutions.

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  84. Great, great post! Not only is it important to me for the young 'uns I'm raising up, but also a good reminder to me! I am who God says I am, not who my followers say. Thank you!! Be blessed!

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  85. Great post...and please be aware parents that when they "hash tag" they have no control over who sees that pic or post. Think of some creepy perverted man sitting at his computer looking at those "cute" and often "provocative" photos of your precious daughter! I made my daughter shut hers down when I realized she had hundreds of followers that she didn't know and many hash tags which opened up her photos to who knows what kind of people.
    Thank you for opening the door for parents to be more aware.

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  86. For only being 25 yourself - you are a very wise person and these are excellent viewpoints that will at least get parents 'thinking' and find a way to start a conversation with their kids to help encourage and build confidence in other ways. This Youth Group is very fortunte to have you and your husband involved as role models. They will no doubt benefit from your involvement and concern.

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  87. I just wanted to say thank you for this wonderful post. Someone shared it on Facebook and I will do the same. As a single father of a 13 yr old daughter and 10 yr old son, these are the exact things I'm faced with and try to talk to my kids about. The social world is so very different today and we have to make sure we focus our identities on the only foundation that will stand as you said. Thanks so very much for this !

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  88. Incredibly insightful. Thank you.--from a 40 year old mother of a middle-schooler and a tweener, and a Parent Educator/Coach.

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  89. I think everyone should visit the site below regularly.

    www.wwwdotcom.com

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  90. Fantastic article, thank you. My young ones are both under five (and thankfully boys) but this is a great page I will keep book-marked. Off-topic: Sprechen sie ARF?

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    1. I have 4 boys, and it is not so much easier, as you would hope. They see all kinds of images that they shouldn't, and fall into the same self-image issues as girls, if maybe not as obvious. Start praying now, and stay involved in their online activities as they get older.

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  91. Oh wow! My kids aren't on social media (yet), but this was a great read. I am saving it to re-read in a few short years when my daughter starts asking about this stuff. Thank you for your insight!!

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  92. Thanks so much for sharing this info. I had know idea. Mine aren't there yet but I know it will come. What great advise you gave about how to use it effectively!

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  93. Great article, but I hope you aren't counting the number of positive comments :)

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  94. I don't know who you are, but this is fantastically well-written and a great perspective. Thanks.

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  95. I teach a parenting class at my church and I am wondering if it would be ok to make copies of this article? This is such an important subject to address, and you've done a wonderful job! Thank you!

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    1. Yes! Please feel free. The more parents in on these type conversations, the better!

      And thank you. I'm honored and incredibly humbled. :)

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    2. Thank you! Bless you! : )

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  96. I setup Instagram on my iPad using my 8th grade daughter's credentials so I see exactly what she sees. It takes self-discipline to stay out of her conversations, and there's no way any human age 16 or older could keep up with all the information. But the insight I have gained to the character of her "friends" is invaluable. btw, she knows I have access to her account.

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  97. I have a middle school daughter, and have access to everything on her itouch which she agrees with. I have learned a great deal about what her friends are up to...some of it very disappointing behavior. They are doing the collage of 4 photos with girls for people to choose a winner. How hurtful. I see lots of craving for attention with all the selfies photos they post, just asking for validation. Many hurt feelings on all ends because some are always left out of events. Some of the girls have found the true spirit and fun of this by posting photos of their food, art, landscapes, enlightening phrases...if only all parents were to guide their girls. What is needed is supervision and guidance to make better choices..not just for themselves, but for the sake of others as well.

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  98. On this same topic - there is software called NetNanny from Content Watch http://www.netnanny.com/ is a great resource for parents.
    Unfortunately in this ever changing tech world new things come on the market and can't always be monitored but this is a start.

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  99. Thanks for this post and reminder! I'm on Instagram and have kids (and the occasional college/adults) asking me "how do you get popular" and "please please PLEASE give me a shout out" because I happen to have a lot of "followers." I feel that I do a fair job at shielding my kids from social media (partly because they're not old/mature enough), but I am growing keenly aware, as my 4th grader is growing up so fast and sees the social media thing happening everywhere, that I as the parent will need to become increasingly vigilant in affirming my children and redirecting the messages of self-worth to what God says about them. I am saddened by this aspect of social media where the kids (and adults!) are taken to promoting themselves in self-absorbed, vain, ego-filled, look-at-me ways in order to attain some semblance of love and self-worth. Thanks for helping other parents step up and catch a glimpse of some of things that are going on in the lives of pre-teens and teens these days!

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  100. Awesome post! I couldn't agree more. Live in the world but not of the world. Hope lots of people see and read this. Two thumbs up!

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  101. It seems to me the difference between “the old days” and the new “social media age” is irrelevant. It is true that there are ways to quantify a persons popularity, but even in the old days there were ways to gauge a persons popularity—ways which were every bit as accurate as the new ways. So if a person decides not to use Instagram because of popularity scores, that person should also prevent their kids from going to school or interacting with any group of peers.

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  102. Wow. I thought I was a hip, social-media saavy 40-something mom here. My 12 year old does not have Facebook because you have to 13, but she does have Instagram. I thought it was just a place for her to post and view pics of One Direction. :-)

    I think I will be setting up an Instagram for myself. And talking to my beautiful girl about just how amazing she is... daughter to the King and all.

    Thank you!

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  103. 1. i am SO glad i'm not in high school or junior high in this current age.

    2. i've been on the fence lately with insta. even though I'm out of high school, (like way out of high school) i still know people who act like they are still in high school and are completely defined by the numbers.

    3. thanks for being bold here with "it's not just about assumed popularity anymore. It's explicit. It's quantifiable."
    how awful.

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  104. Your words are a blessing to other Mothers! Thank you so much for sharing! I believe sharing your Faith in God with your children is always important!

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  105. Thank you for writing this. Very important! One thought: you mention that it would be easier to talk about sex by saying "just don't do it." As someone who grew up hearing this in youth group and now speaks to middle school and high school youth on the subject of sexual integrity I urge you to put the same amount of effort into communicating about sex as you do about social media. Both are deeply tied to finding ones identity in Christ. I am passing this along to a friend who has middle school daughters on in instagram. Again, thank you for thoughtfully addressing a challenging and ever-changing issue.

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  106. Amen Sister! I just made my 11 year old take an Instagram break b/c it's making her nuts. The other girls are being so petty about "copying" each other and the number of likes/follows that it's causing so much drama! First of all....how can anyone "copy" you when you don't own rights to what was "shared!?" How can someone "copy" you just b/c you decided to use lower case letters?! LAME! Or should I say #LAME! I think it's so super important to educate parents (or those responsible for children) so that they know what's going on in the social space they may not know about.

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  107. Excellent advice - as a mum of teens, and who is as keen on Instagram as her kids, this is really helpful. Thanks :)

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  108. Is it just me, or can you only do Instagram when your phone has a data plan? My kids have phones but not smartphones and I have never heard a request for Instagram or any other app.

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    1. Basically, you need an internet connection of some sort to "social network". It might consist of a data connection -OR- it could be wifi (wireless internet ((starbucks, tim hortons, home))

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  109. I don't have any children, but I appreciate this post as someone who grew up in the same time as you. It's scary to think that they literally quantify their worth based on the ephemeral trends and fads of others. Now that I'm aware of this, when/if God blesses me with children I will at least be aware of the need to properly educate them as to their real worth. The only title that really matters is that they are Children of God.

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  110. Amazingly well written and excellent advice! My daughter is 15 and is on Instagram and other social media sites (Facebook and Twitter predominantly). I am her friend/follow on both. I don't have an Instragram account, however, but I use her's and see what she does, with her knowing I do. Luckily none of her friends or herself behave this way but boy can I see how it could happen! Very insightful and thought provoking, thank you for sharing!

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  111. EXACTLY! I spoke at my children's school about this just last week. I, too, have been watching accounts - the ones that actually say 'rank me - A if I'm beautiful, B if I'm pretty, C if I'm cute, D if I'm ok and F if I'm ugly' and then watch what happens. The ones that say, 'I'm bored - Facetime me'.... with their PHONE NUMBER...

    We need to be paying attention and talking to our kids. Thank you for writing.

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  112. Holy cow! Why on earth are people allowing middle school age kids to have smart phones? (and how can they afford it?!)
    Guess I'm a mean mom, but I don't let my kids touch a phone until they can buy it themselves...

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  113. From a 16 year old teen guy... I have to say that I don't really find instagram all that great either...

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  114. Parents should know that their kids just need an iPod touch to get an instagram account--if they have wifi, they can upload pictures!


    I've been working on some thoughts for teaching my future middle school students (I'm a teaching student now) about social media, and especially apps like instagram. I feel like we haven't reworked internet safety and the like for the new rash of social media, and it scares me a little.

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  115. Well said! Thank you for speaking up on an important issue. Social media can play such a big role in teenager's lives. Bullying happens via this outlet and it's important for parents to talk with their kids about it. Enjoyed your post.

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  116. You are SPOT ON! This was exactly what I have not been able to put in words and I am so glad you did. My 12 year old is glued to her Instagram - I am on it now, but it wasn't until friends were here and I heard them all talking that I finally started figuring it out. I was thinking these exact thoughts but not putting them together. Your youth group is super lucky to have you! This was shared with me on Facebook and I have emailed it to the other parents at our school! Thank you!

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  117. Beautifully written. The perfect amount of diplomacy and understanding minus the lecture. Thanks for taking the time. - Jennifer from Maryland (I don't know how to "comment" correctly!)

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  118. It makes getting left out of a sleepover a MAJOR in-your-face thing when others post photos of the event. It is like a digital "slam book" of the 80's...is it not?!?

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  119. Wonderful article. I'm embarrassed to say, I didn't know Instagram was a thing with teenagers. But I'm in the stone ages. My oldest is 11 and none of my kids have phones. I wondered what teenagers would do since it seems like the old fogies took over FB. I sometimes think we as adults do the same thing with FB, and how many comments and likes we get. I tend to only go on my FB account about twice a month because it is such a time sucker and temptation to narcissism. Your article was enlightening though and even though I should go to sleep, I stayed awake to read the whole thing. Thanks for your wise words. (And your comment about Pinterest made me laugh out loud.)

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  120. Thank you, from a very grateful mom, for this very informative piece you wrote. I've suspected as much but wasn't certain about Instagram. As much as I try to stay in the loop, the "loop" grows bigger, more complex and faster than I can keep up with... We parents certainly need to stick together and help each other out!

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  121. Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

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  122. "Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young." -J.K. Rowling

    Great article. I try to keep the idea of this quotation in mind in my parenting. It is foolish to try to cut off your children from all forms of social media, because they WILL find a way... this is the time when peers have more influence in your child's life than you do, like it or not. It's just a fact. (I am an youth family counselor in an addictions rehab facility). The greatest thing you can do for your child is to influence them by modeling who you want them to be. Don't use social media? That's fine. How do you define your self worth and show that to them. Ladies, do you talk about how fat you are all the time or do you show confidence in your body that God has given you. Expect your daughters to follow suit. Men, do you treat your wives with respect and reverence? Expect your sons to follow suit and your daughters to find men who treat them the way that you treat your wife. Saying that you want your child to be just like you is the best way to keep them safe in this world that has become so confusing. Can you say that or are you a "do as I say not as I do?" Food for thought.

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  123. Great article and wonderfully well-written! What a great tone of voice you have in your writing. Thanks for sharing!

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  124. This is wonderful! Very good infomation and well written, thank you! Off to share it now.

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  125. This is so timely for my family. My daughter is in 6th grade and exploring the landscape of Instagram. Great tips- I shared on facebook.

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  126. This is a great article. Something else I have noticed on Instagram though, is that middle schoolers are posting things they really shouldn't be. Like commenting on other's picture and using horrible language, and getting into fights with other commenters. If your child has Instagram, watch what they are commenting!!

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  127. I'm not quite sure how I found this blog post but am so glad that I did! As parents of 10 & 12 yr old boys, we are just beginning to navigate the social media waters with them. Neither boys have phones yet & I know there are some that would say we are 'stone age' parents because of that.

    You gave me some points to think about that hadn't even crossed my mind. The topic that you were given to talk about for the weekend - Finding your identity in Christ - that is something we are currently talking to our boys about so it was neat that God dropped this in my lap this morning.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

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  128. This is a great post!!! Thanks for sharing...

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  129. Sarah, that was a fantastic article outlining how we need to be aware of not just the creepy dangers, but frankly of the psychological intertwining dangers, between our quickly growing kids and their use of social media. This was an excellent "Social Media Awareness for Dummies" parent guide!

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  130. Thank you so much for posting this! I look forward to sharing these ideas with my youth (and I'm putting them in my mommy toolbox for later! Much later hopefully - my girls are still so young!)

    You make a great argument out of love. I teach HS, use social media and am about your age (FB came around at the end of my college career!), yet this is something I had never considered. You are a gifted writer - thanks for sharing your gifts with the rest of us!

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  131. Great post and reminder we guide our children thru to adulthood we have to be responsible and pay attention. thanks for sharing your thoughts

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  132. Great article...I personally have a service found at www.aBeanstalk.com that allows my kiddos to have a social presence...while allowing me to be the MODERATOR of their digital life. It alerts me only when things go out of bounds...like they are being cyberbullied, offered drugs, or asked to meet someone in real life.They have the privacy they desire and I have the peace of mind knowing that in the event my child is falling into harms way I am the first to know...not the last. When something comes onto my radar we have a conversation and problem solve together...we all need a window into this new world.

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  133. As a 60+year-old, who gravitated to FB a year or so ago, I heartily agree with the article and the comments! I spend WAY too much time on FB trying to be 'witty' and get 'likes'...this is a wakeup call for me. Why should I care (at my age) whether complete strangers like my posts or not? Jesus Loves Me and that is enough (or should be).

    I was seriously considering quitting FB for that reason. The reason I'll stay on is to spread the gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world.

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  134. is is great great how how you use social media to bash social media brilliant

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  135. This was awesome! You said it perfectly! Thank you!

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  136. Thank you for explaining Instagram to me, as well as offering positive ideas for how to combat the negatives. i do have one thought to pose though: Do we as parents of younger children set them up for trouble when we post pix of them frequently on our own FB page and such? Doesnt that teach them to ham it more or to judge whether momma thought they were cute based on whether or not she posted it?

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    1. Wow, Heather...very thought provoking about our roles in how they view themselves. A great point!

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    2. Yes! Great point. Someone else commented something similar:

      "...I think so many of these kids are following in their mothers' footsteps. The difference is that moms do it on Facebook. They post selfies when they've gotten their hair done or are in some outfit that they think makes them look especially skinny."

      So important to think about!

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  137. Thanks for this insightful post.

    I am 50-something and use FaceBook, but not the Instagram. I often see friend's posts on FB with the hash tags. I am right to assume that they are posting to FB & Instagram at the same time?

    I still don't understand the purpose of the hash tags #. What are they for? Do they create a separate comment line?
    Thanks!

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    1. Hashtags are iconic to Twitter but also found on Instagram. They began as a way to publicly group posts/photos. For example, the Superbowl: Searching the #superbowl hashtag on Twitter or Instagram during the game will pull up any tweets or photos using that tag. It's sort of a way to join a public conversation about a specific subject.

      A lot of people still use them as designed, but some use them as a way to make aside comments. Sort of a sarcastic remark at the end of a post, like "This broccoli was awesome. #not"

      On Facebook (at least currently), they serve no purpose other than the latter: an aside or sarcastic comment.

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  138. Thank you for posting this! I creep on my daughters and their friends and find out so many things that their parents wouldn't know! It enables me to have conversations about choosing the right friends and projecting an image online that is in line with their beliefs and morals. One more note - privacy settings! Make sure the account is set to private so they can approve followers. It also prevents strangers stumbling on the account by searching hashtags.

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  139. This is a great article that really got me thinking. My son is only 12 and he has not been allowed into the social media world just yet. I think part of it starts with not allowing them into that world until they are a little more mature (it will be different for all kids). As well, your article got me thinking..."How DO we introduce the idea to our kids that they shouldn't have their identity wrapped up in such things?". Well, I think one answer is to show them how to appropriately use these sites, but only after you feel they are prepared to use them. I don't believe that they should really have a lot of privacy in these situations in this pre-teen/young teen age. Parents, let your children know that their account is open for your viewing and if they don't like that then they don't have to have one. Also, why is it that we give our children free reign of the internet just because it's available? They do not need the internet on their person at all times, or in their bedrooms for any reason, yet we've created a society that says otherwise. They will have the rest of their lives to search the web, but I strongly feel that when kids are young and impressionable, that it's our job to protect them from what is out there, same as we would protect them from anything else that we deem dangerous to any part of their upbringing. Sorry to get on a soap box. I guess the most important thing to me is realizing that in our technologically advanced society that just because it's available doesn't mean we need to promote it to our kids. Thanks so much for all that you said and for your wisdom on this subject! I think it's great! And thank you for serving the children of Richwoods!

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  140. While steps should be taken to protect children from those who would do them harm, it must be discouraging to parents who don't want their children exposed to other ideas to watch the proliferation of social media outlets that they can't easily understand, let alone control. It's always been a battle for parents to control what their children think and believe without them being influenced by others, but now it is even a greater problem because other opinions and ideas are so readily available.

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  141. As a middle school pastor I'm very thankful that you're a voice out here! It's very encouraging to have someone write what's in your head! Thanks for helping me articulate how to better start this conversation with my students!

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  142. Wow, I just saw this on a friend's Facebook post. I have young ones too. Thanks for sharing, very insightful.

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  143. Agree and Agree! I recently went to seminar from a phycologist regarding the influence of social media and the like. This topic is not going away. Thanks for sharing!

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  144. Thanks for posting (and re-posting) this. I am helping it go viral by forwarding it to my son, who is the father of teenagers!

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  145. So accurate and on point! In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is to try to keep their children from something, instead of researching, preparing them for it and discussing it openly and regularly. Nice to have this reference to come back to!

    http://mommiesmakeitwork.blogspot.com/
    ~Heather Rebekkah =)

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  146. we have three children (10,8,5) who are not active with any social media. heck, i am barely up to date on social media! my antiquated flip phone (gasp!) does not text or take pictures so i don't *get* instagram or twitter. so, how does a parent stay ahead of the curve on these things? what age do you feel is appropriate for children to be able to handle technology? over the next 3-5 years i know these conversations will come up. but for now our kids like to get outside and play instead of watching/playing on a computer. i have bookmarked this article as a reference tool.

    p.s. i am on facebook but don't post many pictures and try to keep the privacy levels pretty high. just so you know i am not living in a cave somewhere!

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  147. I am an 8th grade girl, and am about to be confirmed. This article is soooo true! What really annoys me is when girls get an app that says who unfollows them and then unfollows that person, like "Well they did it to me!" and then they think that person has a problem with them~ over reaction much?

    I really hope some of my friends will read this!

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  148. I don't remember the last time I've felt compelled to leave a comment on a blog, but I have to say this is one of the best things I've read in a long time. You're a fantastic writer and I appreciate your wisdom - especially for being so young. Keep up the great work!

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  149. Great post! Great idea to share with my 6th grade youth group!

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  150. Did you get enough "likes?"

    I'm kidding, because I like your article too - but I think feeling like we have to "like" something on instagram or facebook is just as bad as feeling like we have to post a picture of ourselves - or even our family or friends - or telling the world all about "me" on facebook - or worse - or own blog. I'm sorry, I just think all of it is just so selfish.

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  151. Very insightful. My question is why do all these kids have smart phones when they are 11 and 12?

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  152. Thanks for posting this. As a fellow youth worker, it's refreshing to see someone articulate what is an increasing worry for me. Just a heads up, I'm linking to this post on my blog, hoping to send some parents to it. Hope that's ok.

    Thanks again for the insight.

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  153. I truly enjoyed this article. I teach college students in South Korea. It is interesting for me to study the effect of students on technology. I don't want to be spammy. Only if it helps, here are a few articles that I have found. I encourage you to keep writing on the topic. I also helped with youth group when I was younger. You are at a good age where you are old enough to have a respectable opinion, yet young enough to connect. Enjoy the experience and thanks for serving.

    hereis the link:
    http://www.scoop.it/t/new-media-technology?q=teens

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    1. Not spammy at all...those are great posts! Thanks for sharing!!

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  154. I completely agree with you, and appreciate one of the comments you touched on. Don't read this post and automatically make your child delete all social media applications. The key is staying plugged in with your kids, as they traverse the new technological age.

    Our guidelines? I have to have your password. If I try to log into your account, and I cannot because the password has changed, you have lost the privilege of the use of the social media app. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about.

    Also, join it with them. Follow them, follow their friends, there is accountability for you as a parent as well. Be open and honest with them, and they in turn will be open and honest with you. Set the example of responsible internet usage.

    If you take away something completely, they will go behind your back to do it. If you are involved, they are more apt to use it responsibly. And isn't that our job as parents? To teach our children how to handle the roads of life with responsibility. How are they going to learn, if we don't take the time to teach them??

    Well written, and highly supported.
    Well done.

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  155. What a great article. Such good stuff to be thinking about. Thanks for sharing!

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  156. This is so great. And something that everyone needs to be careful of, not just teens! It's so dangerous to get caught up in finding your meaning and worth through this.

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  157. Very insightful and very well put. Way to go!

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