Every day, every single one, I see this happening. Not only does it bother me, I think it's really, really hurting our kids.

I see it at least once a day.

And I have to be brutally honest, it drives me bananas.

My 12-year-old and I were chatting about the usual – sports, sports and sports. Then, the conversation shifted to cell phones, social media and who has the coveted mobile device. At our house, we tend to fall on the conservative end, not getting phones for our kids until high school, and they’re dumb phones at that. Somehow, they’ve survived.

As we visited about his day, an alarming trend began to emerge. Kids, going behind their backs and setting up social media accounts OR, parents, lying for their kids, on social media.

“Mom, almost all my friends have an Instagram account. They just lie about their age so they can be on social media.”

{crickets}

Parents, that is not okay.

Look, I love me some social media. But, with it comes responsibility and being the parent of a kid who reeeeally wants to be on social media is often times as much fun as repeatedly banging your head against a wall. True story.

I happen to be quite active on Instagram and I’ve seen some of those accounts. A few times, I’ve even taken a screen-shot of a questionable gram and sent it to the parents. Hey, it takes a village. A fellow mom did that to me when my son lapsed in judgment and I have appreciated her for it ever since.

Here’s the deal mama, don’t be afraid to say ‘no.’ And for the love of all that’s holy, at least follow the rules on this one! There are age restrictions for a reason. Help your kid write a safe, non-identifying bio that doesn’t attract creepers (trust me, they’re out there). And keep that device in a public place. If your kid is on the ‘gram, or any other social media app, you better be on it, too. You should have your child’s passwords and monitor their accounts with random spot checks. Did you make rational decisions in your teens?

I thought so.

I can already hear it, the chorus of, “Oh, quit being a helicopter parent.”

I see your argument, and I raise you this. If your kid has a smartphone, you’ve just given them some serious access to the wide world of crazy.

  • 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography online before the age of 18.
  • The first exposure to pornography among boys is 12 years old, on average.
  • 83% of boys and 57% of girls are exposed to group sex online.
  • 15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography online.
  • 71% of teens have done something to hide their online activity from their parents.
  • 28% of 16-17-year-olds have unintentionally been exposed to pornography online.
  • 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a sext.

Source: Covenant Eyes

How do I know this? Those aren’t just some statistics made up of “other people.” We are those other people. We struggled with it in our home. So, yes, speaking from experience here. It’s never too early to teach your kids about the good, and evil, of living in our world today.

Not only that, but almost everything you read about teens and social media tells you that they’re growing up with more anxiety, lower self-esteem, a lack of direct communication and the inability to react to social cues because they don’t even know what those are. Nevermind the fact that teens, especially our girls, can become obsessed with their self-worth based on that coveted “like” button. Cyberbullying is real, y’all. These are adult challenges, adult problems and adult issues that we’re thrusting upon pre-teens all because many of us think it’s innocent pictures and videos.

It’s not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on technology, social media or giving my kids freedom. But, I do believe in age-appropriateness, my kids’ view of the human body and teaching proper boundaries. Social media is awesome and fun and great, but it’s also a source of bullying, sexual exploitation and addiction if not taught with love and good decision making. Here’s some statistics you need to know.

If you happen to be looking for good, practical tips on how to institute rules on screen time and phones in your home, Elizabeth nails it.

Every family has different rules and guidelines when it comes to cell phones, social media and the like. It’s likely ours differ from yours and vice versa. This post isn’t about shutting the show down and locking my kids in the basement. Rather, it’s about moderation, maturity and good decision making – all things I hope we’re teaching our children when it comes to technology and social media today.

The next time your kid asks, “Hey, Mom, can I get a social media account?”, do your research, stick to your rules, be compassionate and don’t fear this new phase in your child’s life. Go in with eyes wide open, rather than keeping them shut and hoping for the best. And, for all that’s good and holy, quit lying for your kids and start being their advocate.

12 Comments

  1. Debbie on June 27, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Thank you for this. Our daughter had to sign a contract with us before we activated her phone. Due to travel sports, our daughter actually received her phone earlier than we originally planned, but we have complete access. She does not have a social media account yet, but that will come. The main reason is that it is how the teams communicate with each other (the team consists of members from two states. It’s hard to get them all together outside of practice time). Our son will receive his phone this year. We watch our kids like hawks when it comes to computers and phones. Like you said, it’s not about being helicopter parents, it is about guiding them as they grow up and making sure they have the maturity to deal with what they find.

  2. Brenda on June 27, 2016 at 8:26 am

    This is such a timely posting for me. My daughters are 14, 12, and my son is 9. My oldest has been begging for Snapchat for the past year. She makes a compelling argument that this is how her classmates communicate, and she is devastatingly out of the loop. Oh boy, when you are out of the loop in a small Catholic school (28 kids in her grade) that is bad. I allow her to have Instragram. She and I often look at photos together and share a lot of photos with eachother. I love this app. Snapchat just feels wrong to me since the photos “disappear” and started out as a pornography site. It is true that her friends are all on Snapchat which just amazes me how many are and how young they opened their accounts. We are swimming upstream in raising strong Catholic children even in a small town, small Catholic school atmosphere. I would love to know what other moms think of Snapchat. My 12 year old really isn’t into social media and my 9 year old boy really doesn’t care about the whole thing either. My oldest daughter is truly an amazing girl and is currently serving the community with a Catholics in Action group. Sometimes the drive to have Snapchat is might though! Thank you for your insight and dedication, Kathryn. Your Catholic faith and adherence to the Chi Omega Symphony is strong!

    • Kathryn on June 27, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Snapchat and I are NOT Bffs. We have a good friend who worked in cyber crimes for the state of Texas. When Ernie tells us this app is no good, I believe him. We’ve poked around and I’ve seen the (mostly) innocent fun it can offer. But the cons outweight the pros on this one. Everything in my gut tells me it’s bad news (and the news reports are backing me up) and I learned long ago not to discount that instinct. So, in our house, it’s a resounding “no.” But, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t received serious pressure from the teen, and others, to open wide the doors to Snapchat. Right now, it’s not happening.

  3. Bonnie on June 27, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Thank you for writing this, Kathryn. I am amazed at what parents allow and afraid of what I will allow out of my own ignorance.

    • Kathryn on June 27, 2016 at 9:36 am

      Get yourself some good girlfriends who can help, be sounding boards and remember that it takes a village. We’re constantly re-evaluating our social media use and how that translates to our kids. We want them to enjoy the community and evangelization side without succumbing to the evil.

  4. Karen on June 27, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Thank you!

  5. […] Parents, Quit Lying about This by Team Whitaker […]

  6. Kathy on June 27, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Start here–NONE is okay. Give children only what they need; that’s our job as parents, to give them what they NEED.

    I have raised four children, now ages 16-26. Our teens do not have phones of any kind. They do not have e-mail or computer access until they have taken a course I wrote for them called “A Christian Student’s Course on the Computer” based on Quentin Schultze’s “Habits of the High-Tech Heart”–this happens their junior year in high school. Only after this course will they get an e-mail account to begin the college admissions process. My sons who have gone off to college had jobs and bought themselves computers and Tracfones. No one in our family has anything more than a Tracfone.

    And, guess what? Our children are beautiful, brilliant, excelling in every way. They have wonderful friends (not gangs), work hard, play hard and have bright, bright futures ahead, unspoiled by exposure to the dangers of social media, computers and most of technology. It does help that we live in a very rural area and have a huge garden where they all work hard.

    It’s up to us parents to protect our children and keep them out of harm’s way.

  7. Amanda Farnum on June 27, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Preach it sister! I’m glad I haven’t had a tween/teen on the frontend on the front end of the great social experiment of social media!

  8. Nicole on June 29, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    I love this post. Our 10 yr old has been asking for a smartphone. He really just wants to be able to text with his friends and play some games they do. Knowing him (and isn’t that really what this is about?), we know his use of the smartphone wouldn’t just end with texts. He would be on that thing 24/7 if we let him, in addition to the cost and potential he would have for breaking/losing said device.

    What we see in our community is that many of the kids get iPhones for their 5th grade graduation. 5th grade!! I just think that’s too young to trust a pre-teen with such an expensive device that opens the doors to things that I may or may not want him to be privy to. We are often referred to as the conservative parents in our circle, but I don’t care. I would rather be cautious and involved. We let our son text with his friends on our phones. And basically, it’s so he can arrange a playdate here or to go on about some sporting event on TV.

    Social media is a completely different animal. I think that parents need to be fully aware and engaged in any use of social media their child wants to use. I am not on Facebook, but I will be the second he starts asking to open an account (and that’s true of all the platforms, current or future).

    I applaud you for writing this post.

  9. Sarah on July 8, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Thank You!!!!! Even though my own children are little, I still worry about them! I am a 5th grade teacher and WAY TOO MANY of my students have their own devices and social media accounts. WAY TOO MANY of them have been exposed to things they are much too young for. Thank you for writing this!

  10. Jessica Kong on July 12, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    What a great insightful post about something that is something that WILL have an effect on all families in one way or another. I have young children (ages 9 and 5) and I have seen several children in their classes with phones! It is crazy!

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