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Children & devices

Children & devices

How to weigh the risks of social media a conversation with Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
• Visual Capitalist and the most popular social media apps (ranked by downloads).

My kids often complain that my device policy is horrible because their friends get their devices 24-7. I tell them that I don’t care what other parents do (which is the response as old as time). Of course, the internet comes with all sorts of complications – and is addictive: Social media gets teens hooked while feeding aggression and impulsivity, and researchers think they know why.

Yesterday The Eldest had a conflict with someone she knows peripherally, and this kid posted a nasty story to her Instagram about my kid – complete with pics. But my kid just took it in stride. She was upset but not bothered too much by it, which was incredibly grown up of her. We had a great conversation about how she takes some responsibility for the argument but that she felt this kid went too far. My kid has a locked-down social media presence on this platform, which I think she was grateful for as the other kid didn’t have much material to work with in terms of her public shaming.

She showed me this girl’s Instagram and I was floored: I swear it looked like an OnlyFans account (think: pic of a butt wearing only a thong with a painted handprint on one of the cheeks). Suddenly, I was just so profoundly sad for this girl who is only 15 years old and so obviously lacking in positive attention. It struck me as super dangerous for a child this age to be posting unlocked photos like that to the internet at large. As someone who grew up with ZERO parental involvement in my life, it made me wonder about what her life at home was like and if she had someone who loved her and who would find that account and put a stop to it? I did a LOT of dumb things as a teen who spiraled without adequate oversight from an adult but that was in the beforetimes. In the age of the internet whose memory is long it really makes me worry.

I will admit, a lot of these feelings come from the feelings from within me but wow, I was unprepared for how depressed seeing that account made me. I wanted to reach through the internet and scream, “That’s enough of that! I’ll be your mom!” But it’s conceited to think that her parents aren’t involved. Maybe she eludes them because they are less tech savvy than her and she has multiple accounts? I don’t know. I’m in no position to judge.

I was impressed about how The Eldest responded to this bait though: she ignored it. I am lucky that she has a core sense of self and a group of amazing friends who are incredibly supportive and kind. I would have killed to have half as much self-worth as a teen that my kid has. Of course, I did find my tribe eventually and some of those friendships are now 30 years old. But I can say I am grateful for not having to navigate the internet in my early teen years.