My 6-year-old Skypes with friends in Italy. She knows the difference between Snapchat filters and Instagram stories; a Facebook post versus a blog post; a vlog for youtube versus a live stream video on Facebook or Periscope, and she doesn’t even have a cell phone. I guess this is just one of the new realities of millennial motherhood.
She likes to save fun ideas to her birthday party Pinterest board and she just started recording and editing her own videos on Final Cut Pro (I just gave her her first lesson this weekend and she’s hooked!).
Because of what I do, my children are well aware of many of the workings of social media. My daughter understands people read what I write and respond. She isn’t to the point of asking how people are responding to to her images or parts in the vlog. She’s more interested in watching the videos back, or listening to a story about herself.
As my children get older, their schedules get bigger and getting their own cell phones become more of a necessity… I’m becoming more aware of how I’m using my devices.
“We can’t be on our phones all evening in front of our kids,” I tell my husband. First of all, I don’t want their memories of family dinner time to be of us staring at our phones. And second of all, (and likely most concerning) I don’t want to set a bad precedent for when they have their own phones.
Responsibility starts with me. I need to demonstrate the behavior I want my kids to have.
Research shows that 60% of 10 years olds have a cell phone. Doctor Gilboa, who is on the Responsibility.org Advisory Board and also writes the blog Ask Doctor G has some good advice for parents as we learn to navigate this rocky terrain.
“Think about the where, when and what of cell phones,” she said.
If you feel your tween needs a phone, what about a “dumb” phone phone that doesn’t have internet access? If you feel that internet access is truly necessary, then set up clear boundaries for where and when phones can and can’t be used. Make sure those phones are charging from an hour before bedtime, in a parent’s bedroom. Keep a few spaces sacred, like the dinner table and bed. Don’t use a cell phone in a way that you don’t want your child to use a cell phone when they are an adult. And monitor content, even though it’s hard!
I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open so they feel comfortable coming to me with questions. As many as my daughter asks me on a daily basis right now, I’m hoping that won’t be a problem.
A method I use for tough questions right now is a “pre-test” approach. Where I answer my daughter’s questions with questions, to see how much she understands about a topic. From there I fill in the blanks honestly. I’d rather they get truthful information from me, then a hodgepodge of information from peers. We’ll use this in chats about things from race, movies, to alcohol to sex (my palms are sweaty just thinking about it though–yikes!)
My daughter may be getting a crash course in social media at the ripe age of 6. I’m either raising a genius or a monster. Only time will tell which one. But I’m working to be with her every step of the way, so when she’s old enough to take it on herself, she’s ready.
*I’m passionate about building strong relationships with our children and being there for the important conversations. That is why I partnered with #TalkEarly on this post. Stay tuned in the coming months for more on this important topic.