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A Kid’s Welcome To Instagram

Social Media Week theme iconToday’s parents are grappling with an issue no previous generation has faced: social media’s place in our lives and
in our children’s lives. Each day this week, at least one post will tackle the topic from a different angle. Read on and, as always, make the decisions best for you and your family.

For a person like me without a Facebook account, wading into social media is something like swimming in the ocean: lots of people do it, it’s very popular, and there is a distinct possibility you will be swept swiftly out of your depth.  But I do not hide from social media. I find Twitter alternately amusing and terrifying. I marvel at how taking disappearing pictures is apparently a multi-billion dollar business (if not exactly profitable).

So one day I decided to introduce our 7-year-old to a small bit of social media: Instagram. Our daughter likes to take numerous selfies, although her usual angle of attack is from underneath with the camera pointed upwards, which means our family albums have a lot of pictures of the inside of her nose. So I figured she would enjoy having an Instagram account where she could follow her favorite artists and post photos with her (very few) family friends.

My daughter snapped a photo of herself smiling and looking very much like a 7-year-old girl.  We uploaded the picture and titled it “Hello!” Then, I helped her follow a few singers she likes so that her Instagram feed filled up with pictures of Katy Perry (but definitely not Miley Cyrus—big difference, parents, you’ll find out soon enough).  All was well until about ten minutes into this social media experiment, when I discovered my daughter had a follower.

We are conditioned to think that having followers on social media is the way we figure out who is popular, powerful, worthy.  But when you discover that your own underage daughter has a follower – who by all appearances clocked in at 20 years old – you react something like this: by shrieking and quickly powering her phone off, like she was the subject of some kind of wicked hack attack.

Our suddenly innocent foray into social media had sucked me out to sea. After I gathered my wits and realized that simply throwing the phone on our front lawn probably was not the solution to my daughter’s new stalker, I looked up how to remove a follower on Instagram.

It’s surprisingly more difficult than it should be.

Eventually, we removed the weird follower. But we’re taking a timeout from my daughter’s Instagram account nonetheless, our own anxiety about social media compounded with one click from a stranger..  We know we can’t avoid social media forever; it’s the way the world works. And I’d rather introduce her to it than have her friends secretly show it to her at school. But the social media apps that we’re told are designed to connect us to the world seem far more sinister when young children are at the end of the social synapse.

So there you have it. We tried to be cool parents and all we succeeded in doing was exposing our daughter to some weirdo. But at least we tried. And, soon enough, we’ll try again.

When she’s 30.

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