I am so psyched and proud to introduce you to one of my dearest friends on this planet Maureen “Mo” Chamberlain. Mo and I went to college together, and we’ve loyally supported one another through thick and thin ever since. Check out the pic: Mo Mo is the pretty bride who hasn’t changed a bit – no kidding. And even though I’m jealous that she still looks like she’s 25, I love her with all my heart!
Fast forward 18 years, and Mo is now a dedicated 7th grade-reading specialist in Weymouth, Massachusetts where she teaches at Chapman Middle School.
Do you remember when you were growing up and you found out about an event or party that you were excluded from? I am sure it might have hurt you when you realized you were passed up, but it probably got easier with time…without immortalizing pictures. Our kiddos today are dealing with a lot of rejection on a daily basis, and so much of it is posted instantly while it is happening in REAL-TIME. Suddenly, the haves and have-nots are born based on what has been posted, all during a time in life when coping skills that best support our psyche have not been fully developed.
In this guest blog, I have invited my “bestie” Maureen to share some suggested guiding principles for our readers to support kids with the social media challenges they face.
With gratitude to Mo and to all of the everyday heroes who support and inspire us to do more!
Many things have changed since I grew up in the 70’s. Back in my day, the only way to communicate with friends other than speaking in-person was by calling their families’ house phones or writing notes.
Instagram is supposed to be a fun way to communicate with friends, providing a platform to share photo moments and express oneself without words. Sometimes, however, words are not needed to leave kids feeling left out, depressed, and alone. Having two teens myself, I’ve learned a few things about Instagram that I believe parents should know. I’ve also included etiquette tips below that you can share with your kids.
FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY – “DO I MEASURE UP?”
Instagram, unfortunately, has evolved into somewhat of a popularity contest. What does this mean? Your child may feel inadequate if he or she does not get enough “likes” on pictures posted. In fact, kids monitor how many likes they get in the first hour of posting, and if the picture isn’t getting the “rapid-fire” response they want, they may delete the photo. It can be a blow to their egos and make insecurities rise to the surface.
Social media can cause kids (and, frankly, adults) to feel like their lives aren’t as wonderful as everyone else’s. People often question their own happiness when they log on to Instagram or Facebook. Fabulous pictures and status updates can make us wonder why others’ lives seem much more fun, fancy and interesting. If someone is unhappy or insecure, seemingly perfect photos can exacerbate the issues.
When teens post pics of themselves at a party, it often leaves others feeling like they’re on the outside looking in (even in the cases of a quick trip to the mall or a sporting event with just a few friends). There’s usually someone viewing the Instagram newsfeed who wonders why he or she was not included. Back in the 70’s and 80’s growing up, I wasn’t invited to certain things as a teenager, and I remember the feeling: It hurts. But I didn’t have to stare at the pictures, often times while the event is still going on, to make me feel even worse.
TIPS FOR PARENTS:
- Tell young people that their self-worth should not be directly related to the number of likes they get. They need to find their own inner confidence and realize they don’t need over 20, 50 or 100 likes to convince them they’re awesome or beautiful.
- Say, “Don’t post a picture so people will like it. Post it because YOU like it.”
- Remind your children that most people only post positive images of their lives. Nobody has a perfect life. Most of us don’t air our dirty laundry and tell the world about all the lows we experience; instead just the highs in life are amplified. Talk to kids about how they shouldn’t compare their lives to the “highlight shots” of others. Nothing good can come from comparing.
- Talk to your kids about the appropriate use of photo sharing. Explain that perception is half of reality.
- PLEASE, repeat yourself again and again about how once a photo is posted, it’s out there forever. It can’t be taken back.
- Discuss photos someone else has taken with a phone – or that have been sent to someone else’s phone. Your child no longer has control over the image if it’s in another person’s digital possession.
- Conversely, suggest your child ask permission from all included in a photo before posting it.
- Finally, encourage that your kids keep their comments positive so Instagram is a place to connect with people in a constructive way. It’s easy to find something nice to say about someone’s picture.
As a parent, I can confidently say that the best way to monitor what’s happening on Instagram is to open an account yourself. Follow your child and his/her friends. Most kids don’t mind. It gives the child one more coveted follower and, of course, more potential “likes”. I guess we’ve gone full circle on this.
Good luck and hope this helps!
Maureen in support of Wear the Cape/kidkind foundation