My youngest daughter has a brand new Instagram account, and she’s excited about it. Unlike my older two, she actually does use it to post. Since she doesn’t have a cell phone she uses her tablet at home, so her posts are always things we are doing around the house: artwork or craft projects she’s done, what we’re having for dinner, or the occasional nice outfit she wants to share.
The other day I was on the phone with my sister – our land line, not a cell phone – and I said to her, “You’re my person.” This is a well-known phrase from the TV show Grey’s Anatomy; Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang used to say it to each other to cement the closeness of their friendship.
Here’s a weird thing: my kids don’t use social media to be, you know, social.
The other day, I was scrolling through my own Instagram feed, while my youngest daughter was looking over my shoulder. She was asking why I follow every account I follow. I explained time and again that each account was a friend of mine – some closer than others, but, for the most part, people I’ve met at some point in life and who I wanted to keep in touch with.
My daughter – age 14 – is all about Instagram. It’s her primary source of entertainment: if she’s on her phone, she’s likely looking at memes or laughing at silly posts made by her friends. It’s also the main way she communicates with them, as they use its messaging service much more than things like texting or video chat.
I am lucky enough to work from home and have a flexible work schedule, so my kids have always been stay-at-home kids in the summer. They have some daily chores and other special work to do over the summer, but in general they have a lot of free time on their hands.
I read an interesting Facebook post the other day, written by a teenaged girl. She said quite firmly that it was important for parents to not have their children’s passwords, for their phone or social media accounts. She talked about building trust and how insisting on knowing your kids’ passwords is the first step to them sneaking around online and getting involved in things you wish they wouldn’t.
I admit I was hoping to never get an email like this from the school:
“Some students in your child’s class have been involved in inappropriate online behaviour. Our Student Resource Officer will be doing a presentation on cyberbullying and leading a discussion about responsible actions on the internet. Please speak to your child about his/her activity online.”
Recently, my nephew, age 12, received a letter in the mail. It was addressed to him personally, by name. Inside was a photocopied article about the powers of a new virility medicine, complete with the usual graphic promises for pleasuring the ladies. The article mentioned a specific “doctor” by name, but other than that, there was no contact information or order form or any other action request. It appeared to just be spam but in paper form.
I work from home, and I think that means my kids get more sick days than the average student. It’s pretty easy for them to convince me that they need a day of rest if they have a bit of a cough or a slight fever. I admit I’m probably too easily swayed and I do tend to cave in when they look up at me with big sad eyes from where they have swooned onto the couch.