Yesterday I went to my kids’ elementary school to have lunch with my newly turned nine-year-old son. He surprised me by asking out of the blue, “Mom, how old do you have to be to get Facebook and Instagram?”
Not expecting to have a social media debate over peanut butter and jelly, I paused for a second and then responded as thoughtfully as possible.
“I believe you’re supposed to be thirteen to have a Facebook account, but I suppose anyone can technically have one at any time if they have access online. Why do you ask?”
“Everyone in my class has Facebook and Instagram accounts and wondered why I didn’t have one,” he said in a very matter of act tone.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve already been through the debates about technology and waved off the “but mom everyone in my class already has a phone” plea more times than I’d like to admit.
But this was a new one.
Sure, my kids know all about social media. (After all, I’m a social media mom!). If anything, they have shunned social media a bit because they know how easy it is for me to get lost on Instagram or get caught up in tweeting about an event rather than fully experiencing it live.
And without technology of their own, it’s been a moot point.
That is, until now.
Frankly, as a tween mom, I’m in no rush to introduce my kids to their own social media accounts. After all, kids today have a tough enough to deal with when it comes to putting up with everything classmates throw their way, much less the enhanced expectations of traditional and social media.
But have I been a bit naïve to think that this conversation wouldn’t come up or enter their vocabulary? Perhaps.
The truth is, what our kids don’t learn about from us, they will discover elsewhere. And I’m not just talking about social media…
I can’t say if there is any one definitive way to handle this as a parent.
I can tell you that my husband and I have never introduced something to our kids before they started inquiring about it or showing a curiosity.
For instance, just before my daughter turned nine, I knew I had to have a talk with her. I wasn’t sure whether that would only include elements about her changing body, or if I would go “all the way”, so to speak.
So I purposed to take her on a Girl Mom Weekend. I specifically designed the weekend so that we would stay in a hotel for two nights in Atlanta, which involves a four hour drive there and back. I daresay, driving to your destination for an event such as this is the most critical part; it’s amazing what your kids feel comfortable talking about with you when trapped in a car for hours not having to look at each other face-to-face.
During the course of our car time together, and throughout the weekend (most specifically during our nights laying in bed in the hotel), we discussed all the changes that come with becoming a woman, but she never once brought up dating, the opposite sex or physical intimacy. So I didn’t introduce it.
Fast-forward about nine months when she transitioned to public school after previously attending private school & being homeschooled for a brief period; I found myself having to sit down with her after just a few days in the classroom to talk through some very hard-hitting topics.
While it grieved me that my baby girl was introduced to some vulgar terms and images in such a whirlwind, I am eternally grateful for that she felt comfortable enough to come talk to me about it.
And while we had a good relationship before our girl mom weekend, I fully believe we reached a new level of trust and intimacy after sharing that experience together.
I recently heard John Ortberg talk about decision making, saying:
You have to grow in your character and judgment – which means you’ll have to make a decision. Decision making is an indispensable part of character formation and God is in the character formation business.
What better time to teach or kids to make decisions – about ALL things – than while living under the protection of our roof?
Pastor Judah Smith offers much of the same challenge in his new book Jesus Is Student Edition: Discovering Who He Is Changes Who You Are. Adapted for a student’s age and life experience, this compelling book will get younger readers thinking about what Jesus means to them. And once our children truly understand who Jesus is in their own lives, it in turn affects every decision they make.
So while there is no easy answer to the debate of when and how to introduce your kids to our world online, there’s not denying that they are growing up in an online world and that education needs to start today and it needs to come from you!