A few weeks ago I was a chaperone on my son’s 5th grade field trip to Sturbridge Village – a two and a half hour bus ride from his elementary school. Before we left, my son told me that “everyone was bringing their electronic devices” on the bus and I was a little skeptical. Would a bunch of 11 year olds really be bringing iDevices on the field trip? Yup. They did. Silly me…I thought they would be doing things like talking to each other. Instead, they were texting, poking, Instagram-ing, and doing something called “kik’ing” (which I learned is a texting app). One kid was looking up soccer cleats online and loudly proclaiming the merits of each shoe to anyone who would listen – at least he was putting his time to good use and learning something…I guess.
I’m not shocked that kids are just as addicted to their electronic devices as most adults, but, I it was eye-opening to learn how many kids already had social media accounts at 11 years-old. Am I completely wrong to think that a child of 10 or 11 is not responsible enough to participate in social media? It’s not necessarily just the content — it’s the context.
Playing the clueless mom, I asked the kids what kinds of photos they posted to their Instagram accounts – #selfie was the number one answer, followed by pictures of flowers, manicures, friends, and other relatively harmless snaps. One kid confessed that his little brother stole his phone and took a photo of “something” in the toilet and posted it – but his (horrified) mother deleted the picture.
I’m not sold on this for my kid, but I’m not naive enough to think that he’s going to stay a social media virgin forever. With middle school looming in the not-so-distant future, this issue is on my immediate horizon.
I’m finding that there’s a delicate dance with tweens, you have to allow them enough freedom to feel that they are trusted and have the ability to grow independently and make their own decisions, while being hyper-attentive to every little nuance. You need to know which questions to ask…and when – they can’t be cranky, tired, hungry, or not in the mood to answer – so the actual window of opportunity is very small. It’s kind of like having a toddler again, but this time you can’t just pick them up and move them or send them to sit on the step for a time out.
As for the Instagram question – we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I have a feeling it will be sometime within the next year. And when it happens, let’s hope that he sticks to selfies and nature shots…at least he doesn’t have any siblings.