My 9-year-old just got into a relationship. I knew it was inevitable but I secretly hoped she would wait a little bit longer to step into this new phase of life. However, she came to me and pleaded her case that she was grown up enough to get into this relationship so I’m going to allow it. My gut tells me this relationship is going to be pretty serious and chances are despite how I feel about it – it’s probably going to last her lifetime. She is officially in a relationship with social media. *sigh*
It’s very basic and elementary for the moment. She’s on Instagram and despite not being 13 I have allowed her to have a Pinterest account. (Why does Pinterest want you to be 13 to have an account? At least Pinterest has value, she made me Christmas projects & she has found plenty of good useful information on that site. I digress.)
*Author’s note – if by this point you are already judging me, thinking I’m a bad mom or crazy mom for allowing a 9-year-old to get on social media – go ahead and leave now. I thought long and hard about this parenting decision and I’m completely ok with it. Ok, moving on now…
I know this relationship will evolve and probably too quickly for my liking, before I know it she will be on MySpace (is that still a thing?) and have a blog that probably gets more hits than mine. But for today – she’s 9. I’m the mom and I make the rules. I figured for all you other parents out there who are going through this same thing I would share the following rules I am laying down regarding my child’s social media usage and relationship:
- For the foreseeable future, I will always have access to your accounts. I will stalk your page and if I don’t approve of what you post; you have approximately 6.9045 seconds to delete any content I have a problem with.
- I don’t care if you are showing off your purple hair streaks that you did with the hair chalk I put in your Christmas stocking – you are NEVER to post a picture of a duck face. EVER. (Sadly this happened already before I made these rules. Ugh)
- STRANGER DANGER. You are very bright. Please use that brain in your head. Never give out any personal information. No addresses. No phone numbers. No email addresses. No parents’ names. No anything to someone who you have never met in real life. And if that little twinge in your gut tells you something is amiss – run – don’t walk – to get or tell one of your parents or grandparents or a trusted teacher.
- Your value as a person has absolutely ZERO correlation to your popularity online. I’ve said it once and I’ll keep saying it until the day I die. You are braver than you believe, stronger and smarter than you think, more beautiful than you imagine and more loved than you will ever know. My one lifetime wish for you is that you find your self-worth inside yourself and from your family. NOT from the thoughts or opinions of others. You may post a selfie (yes, we will get to those rules in a moment) of yourself when you think you look super cute in a brand new outfit. It may not get one like on the Instagrams but you know what – you DID look super cute and your outfit was AWESOME. I promise you. And mommy is NEVER wrong.
- Let’s talk a little bit about this all-consuming social media trend. Taking a selfie isn’t awful. Sometimes you just have a smile on your face and you want to share it with the world. That’s totally ok. However, if you do it ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. I will delete your accounts. This ties into the previous rule, don’t go searching for your self-worth from the shallow compliments of others. There are good locations for a selfie and there are not good locations. Bathroom mirrors (unless you are in the White House or the fancy Busy Bee gas station – inside joke) are not an appropriate place to take a selfie that you plan to share on social media. Vehicles are not an acceptable place to take a selfie – unless it’s your first car, then you get one exception.
- Don’t be scandalous. This rule may be premature because at the ripe age of 9 you probably don’t understand what this means, as you get older you will. Social media opens doors for private communication between two people. I’m putting some trust in you to even allow this relationship so that being said, don’t destroy my trust or anyone else’s relationship from your activity online. Don’t be sneaky. If you don’t want a record of communicating with someone via phone records (yes, there are phone records) – then you probably shouldn’t be communicating with them. End of story.
- Don’t even THINK about posting any photo of yourself that is considered revealing. Ideally, I don’t want you wearing anything even the slightest bit immodest but since I can’t be with you 24/7 I don’t have total control of this. (And trust me; not having TOTAL CONTROL over you drives me to the brink of insanity from time to time…) I hate to scare you but there are just plain old not nice creepy people out there and while you may not think that your belly button is a big deal – it is. Keep it under cover. If you ever post a photo that looks even slightly provocative…. well, let’s just say that will be an immediate termination of your social media relationship.
- If you don’t want me, your dad, your favorite teacher, your Granny, your Papa, your future boss, your future mother-in-law or the President of the United States to see it… DON’T POST IT. Everything you post, yes even starting now at 9 years old, will be online – FOREVER. Social media can be an awesome record of your life, your memories, your highlights, and accomplishments. The giant catch with this is that it is ALL recorded somewhere away from our control FOREVER.
- Don’t be mean to other people. This is actually a major life rule, but it completely applies to your social media life and I want to reinforce this. There is a quote in my office and it says, “You may be pretty and you may be talented, but nobody will remember that if you are MEAN.” And honey, momma struggles with this one daily. People will post silly things, brash opinions and sometimes downright rude items online… don’t be baited into the conversation. Always keep it classy, your momma didn’t raise you to be a bully.
- Never allow social media relationships to take the place of real in-person face-to-face human interaction. Creating lasting relationships with real-life warm-blooded people will reap greater rewards than establishing a popular online persona. I suppose you may think this sounds hypocritical coming from your momma who is also known as Small Town Tall Girl – but I will never let STTG become bigger than my real identity or my real jobs in life – being your mother as the most important one.
I want you to have fun with social media. Your life is pretty amazing after all. There is a lot to share and it’s great to stay in contact with our friends and family who are scattered all over the world. But please take it all with a grain of salt. There are far greater things in life for you to place stock in over an online lifestyle.
PS – If you ever post a picture of me with bed head or no makeup or in a bikini that I haven’t approved… you may as well flush your electronic devices because that will be the end of this relationship until you are 18. Kisses!
Meredith Bleakley writes the blog Small Town Tall Girl, where this post first appeared. Her writings range from mommy struggles, highlights of her community, and the occasional political muse all of which are sprinkled with humor and sarcasm.