Since you are a few steps ahead of me with the stages of your children, I would love to know your perspective on this:
I have a 12 year old daughter BEGGING me to have a Facebook page, a cell phone, and to watch shows with her friends (namely a show called Psych and a few PG-13 movies) all in the name of EVERYONE else is doing it except her.
I have asked a few trusted friends. Many of them have mentioned that they know that certain television shows or movies aren’t the best and/or that perhaps Facebook isn’t the best way for their child to spend their time and yet, they allow it simply because they don’t want to socially isolate their child and/or have them be the awkward one that isn’t allowed to do anything that everyone else is already doing. 
I understand this feeling of wanting your child to have as many ways as possible to relate to their peers. I feel the same way. I acknowledge the fact that there are some definite benefits to the social networking that happens on Facebook. And yet, there is a part of me that wonders how much of a slippery slope this may become if I begin to rationalize my parenting decisions in a similar manner.
I would love to know at what age your children are allowed some of these privileges, especially a Facebook page. Is it an age decision for you, or something else?A friend mentioned that their child has to complete their church requirements {YW Award for girls or the Eagle for boys} before they are allowed a Facebook page and a cell phone. They felt it was a privilege and an issue of maturity more than a simple question of age, therefore, they felt that completing that goal was an indication of applying maturity and hopefully, having gained a deeper understanding and testimony in the process. Another friend allows them the cell phone and Facebook privilege once they turn 13.  I realize there are no “right” or “wrong” decisions on this one…each child and family is so different. I just love and appreciate your perspective so much.

Oh man, the Facebook issue is a big one…and so is all the media stuff that has such potential to suck so much out of the life of a teenager. 

I certainly don’t have all the answers, and someone a few stages ahead of me may have better answers.  But I believe you are exactly right, there is no “right” answer for this because all of us parents have to figure out a way to deal with social media that fits our own unique families and children.  For what it’s worth, this is what I think about the whole deal:

Social media is addicting.  Even for parents.  I mean, how many times do we mothers check the internet, whether it’s for a blog, checking email, Pinterest, etc?  Seriously, I bet most of us spend way more time on this thing than we mean to.  So we need to be so aware that we are setting the example for our kids in so many ways.

That said, the Internet is not a bad thing.  There are so many uplifting, wonderful things to be inspired by.  We just need to find a right balance.

Here’s my biggest concern:  If the Internet is addicting to us who have only had it for the last ten to fifteen years, how much more addicting is it going to be for our children who have had it at their fingertips since they learned how to walk?  Scary stuff I tell you.  Kids are texting more than they are talking.  Homework is sometimes turned in through emails.  Text books are sometimes only available to be read on the Internet.  The world has been opened up to us through the Internet…what friends are doing on the weekend to what master chefs are cooking.  We can do anything from buying tickets to a show to getting our grocery shopping done through these magical little boxes in our homes or in our purses.

My point?  I think some serious training and discussions must be done with our children.  And they must be on-going.  All the time.  I do love things that provide for a great topic of discussion with my kids.  (Max, Elle and I had a really great one about the absence of junk food in our home the other night…loved it and their questions, plus the opportunity to explain Dave and I’s reasoning once again.  The same kinds of conversations come up about Internet and I do love to discuss it with them.)  I just think it’s so important if we are putting limits on things to let our kids be part of the discussion.  Tell them all the pros and cons and let them help decide what is appropriate knowing the rules and expectations and higher big-picture goals for our family.  Of course, we as the parents are the ones who must make the rules.  I just like to have my kids in on a discussion as to why we are making them.

Max got a Facebook account when he turned 12 (much too young).  He didn’t “get” it.  I checked in on him a few times and found out that he and some girl had some really weird, immature “discussions.”  (Nothing “bad,” just not very thoughtful.)  It worried me.  We talked it through.  Something happened and he deleted his account.  About six months later he felt like he was ready again and has been really pretty good with it ever since.

Elle, on the other hand, has no interest whatsoever on Facebook.  Her “thing” is Instagram.  And to be honest, I kinda like it because I know exactly what she’s been up to by watching her “feed.”  And she’s pretty creative with her pictures.

With any media, I think if we are willing to allow our children to be part of it, we need to be willing to be part of it as well.  And we must realize that sometimes this takes a LOT of work.  I have to admit I have a really hard time with Facebook.  I have an account but I can probably count the number of times I have checked it on my fingers.  So I’m not so great at keeping up with Max on that thing, even though I know he rarely posts anything.  I need to repent of my ways and get on that thing more often…or get him off…or switch him over to Instagram 🙂

The bottom line is that for our family, we have decided not to shut out social media because it’s there whether we like it or not.  We have, instead, decided to try our best to train kids to use it in the right way with rules from us, after a certain age.  There is no privacy.  We can see what they write at any time, on phones, Facebook, Instagram, etc.  We talk about it a lot.  We go over etiquette.  We try to help kids understand the pros and cons.  And we try to set a good example in how we deal with it all ourselves.

I applaud kids when they just choose to close out certain types of social media.  I LOVE this cute girl my friend Sarah hooked me up to who realized that shutting down her Facebook account was the best thing for her.  She realized that herself, and is so much better off because of it.  But I think that shows an amazing amount of maturity.  I’m going to take the liberty to go ahead and assume that wise decision came after many discussions with her parents.  Everyone’s answer to social media is going to be different.  We just need to figure out what works for our own family.  And we need to get right in there and help our kids make good decisions.  Because as mature as we may think they are, they are NOT mature enough to really “get” social media without some serious thought-out training (and real-life growing up maturity). 

As far as the movies and television shows go, TV in general makes me crazy.  I do not like it one bit, which is good because we don’t watch it much around here, but in many ways I feel like I don’t even “get” pop culture because not watching television (even in my growing up years) makes me feel like I’ve been living under a rock when people talk about who the finalists are in this or that, or what’s happening on such-and-such a show.  Not that any of that is important in the whole scheme of things, but in a way that kind of stuff opens great avenues to talk to kids about what’s going on in the world.  What is appropriate behavior, how would they act if that happened to them, who do they admire, etc. etc.  I know families who watch shows together every week and have so much fun with that and the discussions that result.  We’ve tried that but just can’t seem to make it work.

Sometimes it’s so good for kids to have exposure to little things that we can talk through now.  I LOVE the “Big Talk” we have with our kids because it plants that seed for kids to come talk to us about any questions they have.  Same with television.  If we plant some seeds and know what the heck our kids are talking about when they talk about Psyche or iCarly then we can have meaningful discussions with them.  We only allow television on the weekends (and a little bit more in the summer) but I still can’t count the number of times when some show has come on where teenagers are doing something so silly and thoughtless and the good discussions we have had as a result of that.  And I like that.

Bottom line is that we parents have the daunting responsibility to set parameters and help our kids stay safe in an often scary, unsafe media world.  Sometimes families will shut it out all together, others will let it in sparingly after an age they deem appropriate, but I feel like whatever the rules are, it’s so important to give kids ownership of the social media that is looming so largely around them.  We need to teach them responsibility and what the good parts and bad parts of media are so they can make good decisions when we’re not hoovering around them.  I want them to make great decisions and stand up for what’s right when they are at a friend’s house or when we’re away from the house and they are curious, and I want them to know why those decisions are so darn important, and why we have the rules that we do.  We as parents definitely need to set parameters and boundaries, and we are the boss.  But if we let them have a little bit of say in the decision-making they are empowered to make other good decisions in their lives.

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  1. Great Article Shawni, I have yet to hear the words FB from my oldest.. however, i let her watch a couple of shows,( kids) and i was shocked at how they talked, not really what they said, but how they said it,and how silly they were, i am nipping that one in the bud!

  2. I teach middle school so I know what awful things happen on Facebook. I have a son who is 13 and we did not let him get FB until he was 13 (which is the required age BTW).

    I had a serious chat with him about FB and that he should only friend people he actually knows. I also told him not to ever put his phone number out there (he got a cell phone for his 13th birthday).

    He also knows that we can ask for his phone at any time and check out his texts or FB. I actually did that the other day, because even though I am friends with him on FB I thought he might have done a setting so I don't see any of his posts (because he rarely posts on it lately).

    So the other night he was on his phone and I asked for it, and he really has not been on FB lately. I also checked his texts.

    He knows that part of the privilege of having a phone and FB is that we can monitor it whenever we want and he accepts that (otherwise the phone is gone).

    I am shocked and appalled at what kids post on FB and obviously have no parental monitoring whatsoever. We did have a teachable moment a few months ago when a fried of his posted a very inappropriate comment on my son's wall. We told my son to delete the comment and that although he cannot control what his friends do, he can control what he posts, and what gets posted to his wall.

    I teach at the middle school he goes to so I know these kids well and it is shocking to me the stuff they will post on FB.

    I think you lay down the ground rules and stick to them, it has worked fine for us so far.

    Sorry for the epic response.

  3. I am on FB since a couple of years now, but honestly I wish I'd never put myself on it.I can't delete my profile because my class at the university has a private page or what is it called…so we can discuss the topics, homework, lectures, exams, problems etc. there. So in one hand it's useful, but on the other hand I think it has some bad effects on kids. They see/read things, they shouldn't, even if they don't want to, because people share eachothers pics and lines…I always tell my younger siblings, that they should read or play football instead of spending their time on FB.

  4. The same could be said for blogs and pinterest. The church uses FB to announce scout activities and Young Women, The Relief Society post dinner needs and new Births. So it has almost become like the cell phone in a way that you can't remember how we got along without it. This being said media has a way of creeping ever so slyly in our life's and making things "OK" I see a problem with FB because their is no control over what others post and when kids post or even reply to a post that is full of the foulest language and pictures that are posted of kids in reveling clothes or provocatively clothed. Even if we monitor our kids FB accounts they've still seen it or read it, sure they can delete it but its there in the storage compartment of their sweet little brains never to leave. And the argument that well they hear it or see it at school and in society. But once you "allow it" in your home then its a different matter all together. Its like the time you might have said ok to an "R" rated movie or anything you give in on, even though you have taught them their entire life's just one time will make all other times OK. because "well my parents let me that other time so it should be fine" Right!?!

  5. I have a question for you along these same lines… What do you do specifically to protect your son/children against and teach them about the dangers of pornography that is such a huge problem these days?

  6. I would consider very carefully whether you want a kid under 13 on Facebook because they can't be protected legally under that age. It's a "parental freebie" for us — the decision is made by Facebook so we just abide by it.

  7. Shawni, I wanted to hear "the rest of the story" of how you met your husband and how he proposed marriage, etc. I read the first posting a while back. You ended the post saying that the story would be continued. Did you finish the story and I missed it somehow? Yours is the one blog that I read consistently. I am a grandma of teenagers and love your messages!

    Thank you so much!!

    Kim Radford

  8. Shawni, did you ever tell us "the rest of the story" about how you met your husband, how he proposed, etc.? I read part one of your blog a while back and you ended it by saying that it would be continued. did I miss part two? Yours is the only blog I read consistently. I am the grandmother of teenagers and love your very thoughtful, purposeful, posts. You are great!!


  9. FB and other social media should not be a privacy issue for teens. My friend allows her teenagers to have a FB account but she has the password. The kids also must get certain grades or they can no longer have the account (or a cell phone) because she figures they need to be working on school more.

  10. Hi, I've really enjoyed reading your blog, I've found it only recently. When you talked about books for the kids, I was wandering why there was no "Anne of Green Gables"? The whole series was a favourite of mine when I was the age of your children, I'm sure the girls will LOVE it! It's brilliant 🙂
    Keep up the good work, bye!

  11. Just a quick comment – At my house nobody gets a cell phone until they have a driver's license. I guess in a way that makes the phone more of a safeguard than an entitlement. All phones also plug in upstairs until kids graduate or prove that they're trustworthy. I have cousins that do both.

    Facebook I got in 9th grade, but I'm not really sure what my parents did to decide that. It was never really a discussion? I just knew that if I abused it (they both have accounts) I'd be dead – one of those unspoken laws.

    Now that I'm graduated and out of the house, those ground rules still make total sense. I never felt like I "deserved" a cell phone oR Facebook, but I used it all the time when I was lost, or my car was stuck, or it smelled funny, etc…. and now I use it to keep in contact with everyone!

    That's all.. haha.

  12. I've recently started following your blog and am enjoying all the pictures. Would you mind if people follow you and your daughter on Instagram?

  13. I have 6 kiddos….6, 11, 13, 15, 16, and 17…..All of my teens have a FB…BUT they all share *including the 11 year old the computer…it is in the family room..They get 20 minutes a day on the comp each…they can choose to use it on FB, email, chatting with a friend, or playing games….they all have the same passwords and I check them often..if there is anything I don't like that person is deleted or blocked…I have only had to do this ONCE and they all learned to sensor their own friends or tell them it's not ok.

    Movies PG-13 for the 11 and up ONLY once I have seen it or looked on parental area to see WHY it's rated as it is….

    You have to be happy with your decisions and everything in moderation with give them insight and knowledge…good and bad. go with your gut!!

  14. To me, FB before the age of 13 is also an issue of honesty. We told our 12 year-old that if she were to sign up for FB, she would have to lie about her age. And we don't lie.

    I'm not sure if we'll let her use it at 13, though, either. I like the idea of asking them to prove their maturity before they get on.

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