Should your tween use social media? Here are 3 questions to consider before you decide.
Let me be honest with you: When I was writing Lies Girls Believe, there were lengthy conversations with the publishing team about whether or not to include social media as a prominent storyline at the beginning of a book targeting girls between the ages of eight and twelve. It was a difficult decision because we all agree that if a child is under the age of thirteen, he or she does not have the developmental and emotional maturity required to navigate social media. (And, sometimes even then, it is too soon.) The creators of the social media apps themselves set specific age limits, usually stating that an individual cannot create an account before the age of thirteen. Some apps require users to be eighteen. Those restrictions exist for a reason.
If you are a parent who has respected the age limits, I applaud you. It’s not easy. You’re swimming upstream. One mom said, “Most of my daughter’s 11-year-old friends have Instagram accounts, but I’m holding out. I feel like I’m all alone.”
You’re not alone. There are many parents still respecting the suggested restrictions. And all parents should consider them.
If your daughter is on social media, I plead with you to carefully consider the impact it can have on her. Since its debut into pop culture, it has severely increased problems girls were already facing, including but not limited to body-image issues. The number one eating disorder clinic in the nation released this information in a statement about how the media impacts the risk of a girl having an eating disorder.
In early 2016, scientists reported evidence linking the use of social media with body image issues in young people. This included dieting, body surveillance, a strong desire for thinness and self-objectification. Although social media sites are not the cause of eating disorders, they are a factor in the development of body image issues.
The two most popular apps among teen girls right now—Instagram and SnapChat—are causing girls to feel depressed, ugly, and stressed. There is even a new word in the dictionary—FOMO—to describe the Fear Of Missing Out that many girls experience when they see their friends included in things when they are not.
Since I don’t think your tween should be on social media, it might seem odd that I did, in fact, chose to use a storyline featuring it in my new book for tweens where a girl goes behind her parent’s backs to get on Instagram. Here’s the thing: I’ve heard story after story from moms begging me to sound an alarm.
Girls are not the only ones at risk, but boys tend to be more likely to fall prey to porn or unsafe social media dares. Pornographers often use social media to lure individuals to their sites. And while social media dares—like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral a few years ago—are oftentimes harmless, many of the ones that circulate among teens and tweens are not. Some, like the “Cinnamon Challenge”, have created lung scarring and breathing challenges. Still others, like the “Fire Challenge”, have resulted in death.
How can you know when your child is mature enough to handle social media? Here are three questions to consider before you answer “yes” or “no” to their pleas.
Is he or she thirteen years of age or older?
According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, it is illegal for a social media website to capture data from anyone under thirteen. Bypassing this rule indicates to your child that it is ok to lie.
Is he or she obeying established rules in your home and at school?
You’ll need to give your child some safe ways to use social media. Otherwise, they could fall prey to pornography, cyberbullying, or unsafe social media dares. If they aren’t demonstrating maturity by obeying simply household rules such as completing their chores and homework or observing video game time limits, they’re probably not ready for the responsibility of observing safe social media guidelines.
Does he or she openly talk with you about hurtful and unhealthy interactions with friends at school, in the neighborhood, or even with siblings?
Cyberbullying is a tragic, but real fact of social media. It will be important for your son or daughter to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to the interactions they have on social media. Otherwise, you will have a difficult time helping them learn.
In the end, the topic of social media use made it into Lies Girls Believe for the same reason we select every subject addressed in a True Girl or Born To Be Brave event: Bob and I believe that you and I must proactively talk to our children about the temptations we know exist. Just as God spoke to Adam and Eve about the lie they would face in the Garden of Eden and what would happen if they didn’t reject it, we should also speak to our children about modern temptations and the consequences of giving in to them. It is our joy as a ministry to create events and resources that enable parents to bring up difficult topics in safe ways.