Mom, Can I have an Instagram Account?
Those dreaded words.
As a mom, kids are guaranteed to say certain things to you:
Mom, I love you. Your heart bursts with love.
Mom, I hate you. Your heart is pierced in that moment.
Mom, can I have 20 dollars?
Mom, can I go to downtown?
Mom, can I have an Instagram Account?
My philosophy on parenting is best summed up by prompts from Shefali Tsabary’s book The Conscious Parent. “Am I able to perceive my relationship with my children as a sacred relationship?” translated to a simple mantra that I can remember in an instant: I am love and light. I see the sacred love and light of the Divine in you.
And, “How can I rise above my own fear of change and transform myself to meet the requirements of my child’s spirit?” I also translate this into my own quick mantra: My past should not determine their future.
With these two mantras I can tackle any issue, at any time. My goal is to create an environment of compassion and love independent of physical location. If I’m in the aisle of the supermarket and my child decides to lay down and have a fit . . . I become love and light and see the light of his spirit — not a screaming child laying on a dirty floor.
When my children were smaller is was much easier to create a sacred container for us to dwell. I like to compare kids growing us to repotting a plant. The first pot is tiny and filled with the roots of pure love. As our children grow we need to get bigger pots to contain not just the physical size but all the new thoughts, ideas, emotions that are offshoots of the roots of pure love. At some point, it seems to be different for each child, the pot begins to be filled from sources other than us. Social media can be one things that takes over the pot if we aren’t paying attention.
Fast forward a few years, I read the text, “Mom, can I have an Instagram account.” My response was yes with the suggestion that we set it up together. Evidently, he only read the yes part. Within minutes I had several likes from him on my own account and a direct message.
UGGGHHHH! This is NOT the way I wanted to introduce my teen to Instagram. I met this challenge how I meet all of my parenting challenges, I used my mantra. My past should not determine their future. My parents did not protect me or educate me on the what could happen to a young naive girl. I had experiences that I do not want ANYONE to go through, but especially my children that I have tried so hard to protect. Leaving the ghost of my past behind, it is now my turn to respond to them as their own person — separate from me.
Setting the Boundaries
I was determined to have my children use electronics in a very specific way. I didn’t want their youth being sucked up with screen time. Even as very small children they were only allowed to watch 30 minutes of videos a day. I chose videos so that I could control what they watched. I never used the TV as a babysitter, I wanted them to understand that screen time had a beginning and an end. This house rule served me well once we were exposed to ipods, phones, and chromebooks for school. They have an understanding that electronics are a tool for a specific use and not just an extension of their body.
Intention, Awareness and Expectations
The kids and I have many conversations about our intentions and expectations. I create an awareness of what could happen, what might happen and I have a file of newspaper articles about what HAS happened. I find the file is very powerful. When they hold a photo of a girl and her cyber bully victim, they get a quick clear picture of what can happen when things go wrong. The other photo is a tragic car accident because of texting.
Setting an intention with your kids is very important. Wayne Dyer has a quote “Our intention creates our reality.” It is what you will go back to again and again. My son doesn’t plan to post photos but he wants to look and see what everyone else is posting. That makes it super easy for me to monitor what he posts but his account is NOT private. That means that anyone can comment or follow him. On Instagram he chooses who he will follow. This has been my biggest challenge. Young girls practically bare all ON PURPOSE. It is my job as a mother to protect my son from looking at other woman’s breasts — even if it is unintentional. On the internet sometimes you have no control over what comes into your Instagram account. I get that. I explain that men are to be respectful and honor women. I follow that up with some women don’t realize their value and when they don’t — often they reveal too much.” It becomes his responsibility to be respectful of women, no matter what they wear. I often ask “how is she adding value to your life?” “Do you honor and respect her?” Ultimately, I make the decisions but I haven’t had to do that yet. We have revisited this conversation time after time.
I ask my son what are his expectations from his Instagram account. He expects that he will keep up with his friends during the summer through their posts and keep up with a few on direct messaging because he doesn’t have a phone. I admired how he was thoughtful in his process. We discussed what language he would NOT be using while messaging and we agreed that I would be checking his account periodically. Of course I can’t manage the language of his friends BUT when they come over, I let them know the expectations of what is allowed in my home. When the boys are disrespectful, and it does happen, I call them on it instantly. Only one kid hasn’t come back to the house because of my expectations.
My daughter’s account is a different story. She does want to post, message, like and keep up with everyone! We have a different set of boundaries. First of all, her account is private. I check her photos everyday. We established her intention and her expectations. This entire process created an awareness that an Instagram account is more than just posting a photo of a cute kitten. I had to meet the spirit of my daughter in a different space than the spirit of my son while remaining in the environment of love and compassion.
- Pick a parenting mantra. I am love and light. I am the person I want my child to become.
- Set boundaries.
- Establish an agreed upon intention.
- Develop awareness.
- Discuss expectations and outcomes.