Parenting and the Dangers of Social Media

As a parent, I want to protect my son from everything bad. But I also know I can’t possibly do that when there are so many outside forces surrounding him. School life, friends, social media.

But something happened recently I think all parents of tweens and younger need to know about. People, it is NOT okay to give your young children smartphones. I get you may want them to have a phone to get in touch with you. But does an 8-year-old really need an iPhone? Or even as 12-year-old for that matter? No. And I’ll tell you why.

My son is 12. He’s a little on the young side for his grade (7th). However, he’s very smart and when he was tested to see if he was ready for kindergarten, the school said okay even though his birthday is right on the edge of the cut-off. He’s in AP classes and aside from a little laziness, he’s does really well in school. He’s even overcome some of his more difficult socialization situations. He’s in theater and his first play. He has friends. He’s a very sweet boy.

So when he told me one of his classmates opened a Facebook and Instagram account as him, using a picture of him and spreading lies about him, I was instantly upset. He was very upset as well. As he should be. I found the Instagram account. The profile picture is of my son but it was clearly taken with a cell phone camera during lunch at an angle that clearly shows he didn’t know he was being photographed.

This is highly upsetting to me. For whatever you think about kids and cell phones, there is one thing to remember: they are children. And they don’t need to have that much power in their palms. A camera, access to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Access to texting. You can argue with me all day long that some kids need a phone. But there is nothing to convince me children need smartphones. They just don’t. And if they DO have them, then I would hope the parents have some sense of responsibility to teach them the difference between right and wrong.

Clearly the parents of this boy who did this to my son did not have this discussion with him. And that makes me angry. My son does not have a phone. He doesn’t have any social media accounts. I keep a tight rein on that. So I knew this Instagram account was a fake. And I knew I had to take immediate steps to have it taken down.

And that’s another thing. When he told me about the fake account, I immediately went to Instagram’s website. I am HIGHLY annoyed by their website. And all social media sites, to be honest. They make it so damned difficult to find out what to do in cases like this. I couldn’t find it by going to the About page. There is not a Contact Us page. I called on my IT husband to help me find it. Apparently, it’s buried under the FAQs.

This pisses me off, quite frankly. In this day and age when there are so many reports of cyber-bullying and harassment, WHY for the love of God is this information so hard to find? It should be readily apparent on their website. It should be the FIRST thing I see when I hit Contact Us. It should be OBVIOUS. And WHY for the love of God do they make it so damned difficult to have something removed? I have had to fill out TWO forms and the page is still up (as of this writing).

I sent them a strongly worded email again and asked why it had not been removed. This is an underage CHILD and an unauthorized account. It should have been gone within 24 hours of filing the report. Instead, it’s been DAYS. Unacceptable.

I will give them another 48 hours to have it removed. If it isn’t, I will be sending yet another email. To say I’m displeased with how Instagram has handled this situation is a gross understatement. Why should I have to jump through hoops to have this taken care of, Instagram?

I did call the school and talk to the principal about the situation. I’m grateful for administrators who are caring enough to take care of this situation. And they did.

If anything, this has taught my son a valuable lesson in social media. He understands the dangers of it. I hope he understands why I’m so rabid about keeping him off it. When the time comes for him to start his own accounts, you can better believe I will be checking up on him.

By Michelle

I wish you all could be inside my head. The conversation is sparkling.