These days it’s hard to find someone who isn’t using some kind of social media – either for business or pleasure. We have Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts, Instagram and LinkedIn … to name a few. We are a generation of people who communicate not with each other, but to our electronic devices and – in some ways – this scares me.
Don’t get me wrong; social media has its place. I use it throughout the day as part of my public relations and marketing efforts for my clients and myself. But as the parent of a soon-to-be teenager and an 11-year-old, I am struggling with the “How much is too much?” question. Last year, Pew Institute published some interesting statistics about where and what teens were posting. It’s very telling.
A few months ago, after much discussion, I allowed my older daughter to sign up for Instagram with the caveat that there will be rules AND that mom gets to monitor her. She’s smart enough to know what she can and can’t post and knows she will lose the privilege and her account if she breaks the rules. (We even drafted a written contract).
I found it interesting that she and her friends not only use Instagram to view photos of their favorite “bae,” but they also use it to communicate with each other – even helping with questions regarding homework assignments. While it’s a quick and efficient means to reach out to friends, it also means many of the interpersonal relationships that I had as a child growing up no longer exist.
Case in point: My daughter had a friend over the other day and instead of talking to each other, playing games (as a kid my favorite was Life) or getting some fresh air outside, they sat next to each other, electronic devices in hand, sending out messages and photos on Instagram.While we have discussed the dangers associated with social media and the responsibilities that come with having a social media account, right now she is not being permitted to move beyond Instagram.
As she approaches her 13th birthday my daughter is begging for her own iPhone. Apparently – at least according to her account – she is an anomaly because her phone only allows her to talk and text and all of her friends have smart phones. Her Instagram account is on her iPod Touch.
Maybe I am old fashioned, but I still believe a child’s social network should consist of hanging out with friends at the beach, riding bikes, and yes, even playing old-fashioned board games. There’s plenty of time to grow up and have to deal with the millions of messages that social media puts out there. For now the road to social media for my child will continue to be taken in baby steps.
Susan R. Miller is founder of Garton-Miller Media, a full-service, South Florida-based public relations firm. Susan is a former journalist with more than 30 years of experience. She has written for local, state and national publications. Her clients include attorneys, non-profit organizations and healthcare professionals.
Garton-Miller Media is a full-service, South Florida-based public relations firm. Founder Susan R. Miller has 30 years of experience as a writer, journalist and PR professional.