Like many of us, I have had social media for years. But, I didn't have it until I was in my 30s. What started as a way to stay in touch with family and friends turned into a way to market my business, communicate with teachers, learn about events in our area and more. It's a resource for me more than anything.
Fast forward to today and I now have a home filled with teens (2), pre-teens (2) and a "Master of Disaster" (as we affectionately call her) who is in second grade. Needless to say, the hormones are raging and the changes are happening constantly.
One thing that I have always felt strongly about is social media and children. While there are many positive aspects to social media when used in a healthy way, there are also potentially negative things that can come along with its use. We all know there are aspects of social media that can be difficult to navigate for young, developing minds such as the fear of missing out, whose posts are getting the most "likes", who is hanging out with who, inappropriate content and photos that can circulate and so on. Not only that, there are the filters that can change appearances so much that skin looks flawless, teeth are bright white and teenage girls can't stand to see themselves in unfiltered pictures.
Because of this, I have given our kid's requests for social media a hard "no". I have even offered a monetary reward upon high school graduation for their abstinence from any social media platform.
Our eighth graders have only been in school for seven school days so far this year and the struggle has already been real. Their teachers seem all business, much more strict than their sixth and seventh grade teachers, the masks, the distancing, no lockers, the isolation in the middle of a crowd. We have had tears from all of us girls for a multitude of reasons.
On top of the stress of the new year, one of my very good girlfriend's lost her incredible father this last week way too soon. I sent her a flower arrangement and she actually sent me a Thank You card. How, in the midst of her own despair and grief, did she find the time, the desire, the strength to show gratitude and mail a Thank You card? In her card she mentioned that we needed to spend more time together. I texted her to let her know I received her Thank You card and that I loved her and I agreed we needed to spend more time together.
I told her, "Greensboro is lonely".
Her response was, "Everywhere is lonely right now".
She was so spot on. Everywhere feels lonely right now. Despite being surrounded by loving family and supportive friends, I have felt some genuine loneliness lately. And, it made me think of my children. Gone are the playdates and the hangouts, talking freely at lunch, sitting next to their friends, hugs.
So, recently when our eighth graders tearfully told us that they felt like outsiders because so many of their peers communicate on SnapChat and they are embarrassed when they are asked for their SnapChat names only to say "we aren't allowed to have that", it made me think for a second. Are our rules continuing to isolate them even further? Because of COVID, the atmosphere and environment in which they live right now is one of isolation and are we adding to their feelings of loneliness by restricting an outlet for them to communicate with their friends? Needless to say, after talking through so many things, we ended up having a late night crash course in SnapChat and went over some rules (they can only friend classmates, we have full access to their phones and accounts any time of the day or night, we can take it away for bad grades or bad behavior, etc.).
We also talked about living life and not just living for their next post, we explained that the things they might see on SnapChat might not look like real life but that people often do things for the "likes" and, having girls, we had to discuss uncomfortable things like getting Snaps that they might not be able to "unsee" and what to do about it if they see those things. The girls were beaming. It was like we initiated them into some sort of club that they had always been wondering about.
I don't know if we made the right choice, but it felt right at the time. It felt right for THIS time that we are all living in. We are all trying to navigate this new loneliness the best way we know how while, hopefully, making the best choices for our children. Now if someone could give ME a crash course in SnapChat I would definitely appreciate it!