Teens and Instagram is a huge topic right now and many worry about how to make it work. One of my daughter’s first pics she put on her new Instagram account is of me giving her little brother a huge wedgie.
She obviously learned from my example of silly Instagram use. I have to say, I was proud.
I remember when she was a baby I would make all these assumptions on how it would be when she was a tween. Obviously, when we reach those timelines a lot of preconceived notions fly out the window. Our expectations of our children have to evolve with what is current as well as their personalities vs what we knew “back in our day” because of what we did.
The world of teens these days is more exposed and they are potentially vulnerable to more negatives. Daily life is shared online in a way never before. It’s not like it used to be where teens just had to worry about what someone may see when they are in the same room or what is gossiped about.
When you are different than the way some people think you should be some will go out of your way to put you down. This isn’t a teen issue but a life issue, unfortunately. Maybe it has to do with a person’s insecurities or maybe they just cannot fathom how amazingly unique humans are. Maybe they just suck at life. Ultimately, you cannot control how a person chooses to perceive a situation but you can control how much access they have to your life.
Gossip, hate, judgment and jealousy are, to me, a complete waste of oxygen. As a grown woman I am told some of the gossip that goes around because of my blog, Facebook or Instagram from those who don’t like me or who have strong opinions about who they think I am. With kids it’s so much worse. I cannot imagine how much worse it would have been if the interwebz had become a daily part of everyone’s lives when I was a teen as it is now. But, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t an issue we cannot shelter our teens from it. We just have to empower and educate them on these topics.
On the flip side of the social networking coin Instagram is a fun way for anyone to connect with others. For my daughter, who has chronic illness, it’s a way for her to have a social tie with her friends even when she is spending days in bed. I’ve noticed that teens use Instagram very differently than most adults. They upload a lot of pictures of memes. They shoutout like crazy. They share what they are reading, music, shows and movies. Of course there is an abundance of pictures of celebrity crushes.
It’s also a lot of fun. I’ve often asked my kids permission to share pictures on Instagram. Sometimes they pose for silly pics or even tell me “Oh you gotta put that one up on Instagram!”. When I have shared some of the pain my daughter experiences, as she suggested, she enjoys seeing the feedback and support.
Instagram Isn’t For Everyone
My almost 14 year old stepson and I had a long talk about Instagram a couple months ago when he got a new iPhone. We looked at my Instagram, discussed what kids his age typically do with it and how he would utilize it. In the end he decided he wasn’t ready for it and it didn’t interest him much. He is painfully shy at times. When I talked to my 11 year old daughter she weighed all the options and felt enthusiastically ready for it.
It isn’t about age but it’s about different personalities and maturity.
The biggest concerns I have about Instagram for kids have to do with safety and emotional well being. Come to find out they are as equally concerned about it as I am. That was a relief.
Tips for Teens and Instagram
Safety: Keep Instagram private. Don’t use your full name (which isn’t something most people follow but I’m extra cautious) and do not say where you live. Obviously kids should know not to give out personal information but when they get comfortable those things start to slide. Kids like to post pictures of their class schedules. I told the kids I don’t think this is wise when the name of the school is visible.
No Creepers: They can’t allow people they don’t know (or I don’t know) to follow them. They can follow some accounts that are just related to bands, shows or photography after I have scanned the content. The general rule for the kids is if we don’t know them, don’t want them to know what we are up to then there is no reason to add them.
My daughter is funny and plans on taking embarrassing pictures of me for Instagram so naturally my friends wanted to follow her. It’s only fair as I have done it to her for many years.
I will win this battle.
My point is that her Instagram account is more than just about her but about our lives together which we share with many friends.
Are they REALLY Friends: There is a huge difference between people you know and people you are friends with. I advised the kids that they shouldn’t add people just because they know them. Sure, they know a lot of people but if they know that person but don’t really reaaaaally want to hang with them then why add them? However, they could get to know more about someone they know at School through Instagram and discover they have a lot in common.
Ultimately, they just have to really think about their decisions.
It’s not a popularity contest… which leads me to….
It’s NOT a Popularity Contest: It’s just not. Some Instagrammers will add a crapton of people but have no interaction with them. I told the kids not to get caught up on numbers of followers or number of likes. It’s about quality vs quantity.
Of course my Instagram came up because I use it very publicly and have people who follow me exclusively on there but not on my blog or twitter. I do not know everyone on it and I do try to connect with many people through it. I like to connect with people. It is different because I’m an adult and they get that.
If all or none of their friends “like” something it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. It’s more important to reflect on “Am I sharing this because I want to” instead of “Am I sharing this for likes”.
Jealousy: A big topic I harped on was that they need to be emotionally secure when they see what their friends are up to. They may see two of their friends hanging out and doing something fun which may make them jealous. My daughter doesn’t have a jealous streak, however, my stepson does. He knows this about himself and is consciously working on it. He recognized that Instagram may interfere with that progress which I felt was very mature of him.
Because the 11 y/o princess of doom has had to opt out of so many things in her life because of her health hurdles she doesn’t have the typical teen jealousy. She gets sick often and just can’t participate in a lot. She accepts this and it really empowers her.
Jealousy is a part of typical growth and age appropriate so I hope to utilize Instagram to teach the kids how to overcome it, be happy when they see their friends having fun and not think about their lack of involvement.
Any negative is an opportunity for a lesson but it’s about getting to that point.
Flaming, Judgment and Internet Jerks: I explained, “There are a lot of jerks in the world. And when those jerks are behind a screen or keyboard they become very brave. You can’t change that about them but you just have to prepare yourself for it. I get hate comments and email often… I just kind of make fun of them and laugh it off. It will take time for you guys to be able to do that if it ever happens to you.”
We discussed how some people create fake Instagram or Facebook accounts just to make fun of someone. They will steal their pictures and write hurtful captions. They will use what has been put out there already to make someone feel terrible. Be mindful, I echoed to them.
Inappropriate Behavior: I showed them some examples of inappropriate pic on Instagram, we discussed why it wasn’t appropriate and how people would react. If I post a selfie I’m pretty much always making a face or have something substantial (aka what I think is funny) to add to it. I’m not a fishing for compliments kind of person so I’ve noticed that my daughter, thankfully, isn’t either. That may change or it may not.
We also discussed how what one persons deems as inappropriate another may not. While I think cute duck face pics showing off the day’s outfit aren’t my thing others may look at my feed and wonder if I am on something. I prefer funny over sexy. I also think I look funny if I try to be sexy. While I say “Don’t be that girl who posts pictures of them looking cute all the time” another Mom may be saying “Don’t be like that weirdo Leila who only posts pictures making faces all the time.”
To each their own.
Teens and Instagram: Focus on the Fun
Ultimately, I want them to use apps and platforms like Instagram for the same reason I do: For fun! It is something to use to connect with others in a positive way.
If it becomes more of a negative than a positive then it isn’t worth it.
That advice isn’t just for teens!
There is a lot of debate out there about Instagram, what kids are exposed to online and what is the right age for all that online freedom. I feel strongly that everything is an opportunity to discuss boundaries with my kids and I slowly have to give them space. I do enjoy that I can banter with my daughter through Instagram and she has my sense of humor.
Instead of the the fear I had of “Teens and Instagram” it’s become something else I can bond with my kids over. I do enjoy seeing the world through her eyes and this is another platform for that.