Instagram for children

Zak: “Mum, can I have an Instagram account? Pleeeaaase?”

Me: “No absolutely not.”

Zak: “But whyyy??” (sad face) “all my friends are on it, I’m the only one left out!”

This conversation is repeated at least three times a week between my son and I. The conversation always continues with him quite correctly pointing out that I am forever uploading pictures to my own Instagram account and questioning why is it ok for me and not for him. He may have a point but then again he is ten years old and he always has a point these days *rolls eyes*.

I love social media and in particular I love Instagram. I like uploading photographs and sharing snapshots to create a story of my life – after all a picture tells a thousand words. Instagram delivers instant gratification – snap a shot with my phone, choose a filter, add some hashtags and upload. I get a little buzz each time someone ‘hearts’ my pictures or likes them enough to actually follow my account. Equally enjoyable, is browsing through other people’s pictures – it’s a bit like looking through little windows into their lives for a brief moment and that really appeals to someone as nosey as myself. So then, if it is all so lovely and enjoyable, why the double standard? Why do I object to my son having an account?

instagram

Aside from the fact that Instagram is supposed to be for age 13+ (when has that ever mattered to a wannabe teen?) and the obvious concerns over privacy, explicit content and and stranger danger, it’s a self-esteem issue. Let me explain… Whilst I am a self-confessed Instafan, I am also mature enough to know that what I’m seeing is only an airbrushed snapshot of what that person wants you to see. We are all basically just promoting our lives in a “perfect” light, showcasing our beautiful children and sharing our witty anecdotes in a modern day version of keeping up with the Insta-Jones’s. However, I know that behind every beautiful shot of my perfectly clean, happy, smiling, adorable baby is a pile of shitty nappies and vomit covered clothes that I need to sort out, not to mention that it has probably taken at least twenty minutes of snapping my fingers and making “coochy-coochy-coo” noises to get her to look at the camera. So I’m under no illusions that what I’m seeing from others is also fake reality.

Passive consumption of our Instagram feeds has the power to suck us out of the real world and into an unrealistic, airbrushed, parallel dimension that can make you feel inferior. If you aren’t careful, watching other people live their apparently beautiful/glamorous/sexy lives can really emphasize feelings of loneliness and even depression. If, as an adult I sometimes feel this way, how much more so are children likely to feel it amongst an already competitive peer group? In my mind, seeing everybody showcase their so-called “perfect” lives would do absolutely nothing for my son’s self-esteem at an already vulnerable and impressionable time in his life. More than likely it will trigger a state of envy and resentment not to mention leave the door wide open for cyber bullying. In my day (oh God I sound so old!) if you were being bullied it would stop at the school gates or if you were really unlucky, when you got off the school bus. Now with the rise of technology it can go everywhere with kids. Anyone can leave nasty comments in a relatively anonymous manner.

When I asked Zak what types of pictures his friends were posting, he replied “mainly just selfies and stuff”. They’re ten for God’s sake! You couldn’t have paid me to have my picture taken at that age. All this selfie taking must surely be making them even more image obsessed and lead to children being increasingly self-conscious? Despite all the obvious downsides to kids being on Instagram, I still find it to be a difficult balance to get right as a parent. I don’t want Zak to be singled out as different or feel socially isolated because all his friends are communicating via their Instagram feeds. At the same time, it is my job to protect him at what is such a sensitive age. It’s a constant struggle as a parent and one which I know I will eventually lose as he gets into his teens.

What do you think? Do you think it’s fine for kids to use Instagram? Am I being unreasonable, or do you think as parents we should make sure they are kept away from it for as long as possible? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what is an extremely tricky parenting topic but one we must inevitably all face.

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuddle Fairy

Mummascribbles

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34 Comments

  1. April 19, 2016 / 8:41 pm

    I think you’re right not to let him have an account yet. It would scare the bejeezus out of me! I do like to post disaster photos on my Instagram though. It feels more sincere somehow, probably because most of my days contain some disaster!
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  2. April 19, 2016 / 8:48 pm

    I love this post, Fi! First off I am in complete agreement-10 is absolutely too young for an Instagram account, I feel that there is still a safety issue even if there are privacy settings in place.

    Secondly, I agree that all the selfie taking is worrying and can have a negative effect on self-esteem. It is very hard, as you say, to explain to our children that what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander but then we do have coping mechanisms in place and a better understanding of what’s real or not. I for one need Instagram for my photography and blog work and feel it’s a bit easier to explain to my teens the reasons why I have to be ‘on’ all the time and that it’s not healthy for them to be the same, it is a quandary though, that’s for sure!

    Thanks for such an interesting and thought provoking piece x

    • April 19, 2016 / 9:02 pm

      I’m definitely finding this step into the teenage years a difficult one to negotiate and I’m sure this will be the first of many such quandaries! Thanks so much for your comments x

  3. April 19, 2016 / 9:03 pm

    My daughter is a bit older, she’s 12 but I let her have Instagram last year, she is very sensible, but the condition was her account is private with only friends and I have the log in details, now Instagram has a multiple account feature I am permanently logged in to her account which I check every day. So far we have had no problems. I completely understand your point of view as I was the same at first

    • April 19, 2016 / 9:28 pm

      It’s a real dilemma isn’t it! Having a multiple account feature sounds like a good idea, I didn’t know about that! Thanks for commenting x

  4. April 19, 2016 / 9:19 pm

    As a high school teacher, I see all of the terrible things the students post and all of the cyber bullying that takes place on social media! It makes me never want to allow my son to have one!!

    • April 19, 2016 / 9:29 pm

      It really does worry me! I’m definitely going to hold off for a good while longer x

  5. Daz
    April 19, 2016 / 9:35 pm

    No I don’t think anyone under the age of 16 should use social media, I’m OK with messenger types as its person to person but that’s my opinion. My eldest is 14 and he doesn’t have any social media presence other than I message or what ever its called.

    Perhaps the parents of Zak’s friends need to have a hard look at themselves allowing them to use Instagram under age.

    Hey what do I know I still think it’s absurd that children have smartphones

    • April 19, 2016 / 9:41 pm

      I tend to agree – I love social media now but I use it mainly for my job as a blogger. It can be a mixed curse and blessing and one I think a lot of teens are just not ready to take on. Thanks for commenting x

  6. April 20, 2016 / 5:09 am

    My boys didn’t even have a mobile until they were at high school. They did have Facebook probably before they should and i was friends with them, although they never posted anything, they didn’t want Twitter or Instagram ( my youngest is now 15) not even sure it was around then like it is now. I don’t think my boys would have suited it as they are both very private and hate photos! ( luckily) they soon got bored of Facebook and both deleted their accounts. They do have Twitter now but at almost 20 & 16 I know my own children and trust them, I talked to them both about all of this and I know they would come to me if there was an issue but they have it to nosey at celebs or whoever not to post anything so nothing is likely to happen. Worrying he wants Instagram at all, having boys you think you escape half of that as they are mostly not bothered about pictures and stuff, I guess they are all different and seemingly already into new stuff my boys weren’t.
    And yes teens are the hardest years by far ( or they were for me)

  7. Julia
    April 20, 2016 / 5:42 am

    Really topical interesting article & comments. So difficult to get the balance right for parents today

  8. April 20, 2016 / 4:15 pm

    It’s a tough one for me I definitely think he is too young.
    But I can see that he would feel left out if all his friends have an account. With Blake I won’t be letting him have an account until he is 13 or older ( if instagram is still around by then).

  9. April 20, 2016 / 6:23 pm

    He is a bit young yet, its so hard to know these days what to do as social media is so big in everything and once its out there its there forever. #bloggerclubuk

    • April 20, 2016 / 9:29 pm

      I know it’s tough to do the right thing isn’t it! Thanks for commenting x

  10. April 20, 2016 / 7:19 pm

    such a difficult one due to peer pressure. my son is 12 and has IG but is private and I follow him and access all the time – in some ways it gives you a better insight in to their lives and friendships instead of trying to get them to talk about it – particularly boys as they hit teens. 10 is definitely too young though and I think you’ve made the right decision.

    • April 20, 2016 / 9:30 pm

      It’s good that you can follow your kids and lock down their profile – thanks for commenting x

  11. April 21, 2016 / 2:44 pm

    I think you’re definitely right not to let him have it, if all they’re sharing is selfies it will probably do more damage to his self esteem etc than just not having instagram.. it’s so difficult now as parents we grew up without smart phones at all, the best selfie i could take was on a shitty webcam haha!
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    • April 22, 2016 / 9:29 am

      It is so odd that they want to take selfies isn’t it?! I really hated having my picture taken at that age! x

  12. April 21, 2016 / 6:30 pm

    I know a few 10 year olds who have Instagram! It’s scary letting them out on social media isn’t it 🙁 I am not sure what I would say. If I said yes then I would keep an eye but more than likely I would say no
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    • April 22, 2016 / 9:34 am

      It surprised me so much that ten year olds have it – literally all the kids in this area seem to have it. I’m sticking with a big fat no for now x

  13. April 21, 2016 / 9:49 pm

    This is such a tricky thing isn’t it. My cousin is 11 and he has one but I know his mum is not too happy about it as she feels as though she can’t protect him properly even when his account is private. Not sure what I’ll do when my daughter asks for one x
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    • April 22, 2016 / 9:35 am

      It is so tricky as you say – these pre-teen years are proving to be a challenge! Bring back the toddler tantrums any day lol x

  14. April 22, 2016 / 8:55 am

    Good points about Instagram and social media in general when it comes to policing our kids. The tricky thing is that it’s a constant process – we can’t just make a decision once and not think about it again. As social media evolves, so must our response as a parent.

    • April 22, 2016 / 9:41 am

      So true, I will be saying no for now but will re-evaluate again and again I’m sure. Even then, I will probably not know what the right thing to do is! x

  15. April 22, 2016 / 8:03 pm

    Brilliant article and I think you’ve just voiced the concerns of so many parents across the land. The question for me is where does it ever end and what’s acceptable/what’s not.

    I’ve recently been playing around with snapchat and musica’lly and am pretty freaked out by the young ages of the people on there. It seems everyone wants to grow up to be a star, they want to be a YouTube/Periscope/AN other social media phenomenon and I fear they have a distorted view of reality. All that on top of the usual worries about privacy, bullying, grooming etc.

    And yet it has become a part of everyday life and they’re likely to use these sites at some point. I guess the real issue is that it’s not a question of allowing or not allowing, it’s about when. I think having some control over what they do when they are young and setting boundaries is the only thing we can do as parents in the hope it will set them up for being socially savvy in the long term.

    • April 22, 2016 / 8:42 pm

      Thanks so much – it’s good to know that I’m not the only parent lying awake at night worrying about this! It’s true as you say that it’s a case of when and not if but it shocked me that this has even been raised as an issue at the tender age of ten! Kids seem to be growing up so quickly these days x

  16. April 22, 2016 / 9:35 pm

    Ahh scary, I am glad I am not in your shoes! It should be harmless, but I would be terrified of what my child would be exposed to. I like the comment of the parent having access to the child’s account to keep an eye on it, that would be the only way I’d be happy with it xx
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  17. April 23, 2016 / 8:05 pm

    Hard to know really as I was born in a time where all this social media stuff was months existing. Some parents go over the top. Personally I’d like to keep my kids away from instagram and Facebook until they are 14 or so.

  18. April 24, 2016 / 3:48 pm

    Gosh — that’s a hard one isn’t it? I think you’re absolutely right to stop him from using it though. Why should children have a divine right to do everything that adults do? After all, we’d stop them from going in to pubs and drinking! I think there’s plenty of time to use social media — if it were me, I’d give it a couple of years. xx
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  19. April 24, 2016 / 8:57 pm

    Oh I so agree with you! My son is also 10 and although he hasn’t asked for an account he regularly takes my phone and looks up footballers etc. Like you said people can post any comments and even if you monitor who they follow you can’t control what’s written under pics. We even had a letter from his headteacher regarding Instagram misuse in his class (a couple of girls had been sending private messages bullying another girl) I was literally gobsmacked. Some kids just want to grow up too fast, it’s our job to keep them young for as long as possible cos let’s face it, being a grown up is bloody hard work! X

  20. April 26, 2016 / 7:05 pm

    I just let my 12 year old have it last year, all of his friends had it and I felt that is actually quite mature for his age. He barely uses it now, the novelty soon wore off, and yet I check it every now and then to see what he is up to, to make sure that he knows exactly who he is following and who is following him. It’s difficult as most “kids” these age DO have social media and it’s scary to think about what they have access to. For me it’s about giving him some responsibility and if he betrays my trust even once then he knows that his phone is gone and he won’t be allowed on it again. I guess we wait and see! #TwinklyTuesday
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  21. May 16, 2016 / 11:19 am

    Thank you for this post – its the one I never got around to writing myself! My daughter is 11, almost 12, so she’s in Y7 and we let her have IG in December so that she could keep up with her school friends (who were nearly all on it) and because she’s a brilliant photographer and arty. I also shared the views of Helen of Actually Mummy who wrote a post about it http://www.actuallymummy.co.uk/2016/02/09/safer-internet-day-children-social-media-accounts/. However, we’ve discovered that despite ticking all the boxes that Helen wisely suggests, it doesn’t allow for this challenge to self-esteem issue that you’ve raised. We found that her checking IG regularly was getting her down, reinforcing her feelings of being left out (alot of girls in her class are from a different primary school to her) etc. So we said to stop using IG completely for a bit, and now we’re letting her go on it once a week, to keep up and I’m checking it regularly. She uses imessage the rest of the time which is great. Whats App would be better if you can encourage that. I guess the key is to focus on what the tip “Only accept people who you know AND TRUST” Thats the key difference. They just accept anyone from their year group and don’t know how to filter. Helen’s point about educating them in the ways of social media is really good, but I do feel that if we as parents can resist, we should say no until 13 if at all possible. The more we give in, the worse it gets. Oh this parenting lark only gets tougher, doesn’t it?!

  22. September 19, 2016 / 8:22 pm

    Let a child have fun with a camera, that is what we do and they feel both proud and happy to share their funny snaps.
    Great Post.

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