How blogging has motivated me to keep my young kids off of social media

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Despite the fact that I spend so much time on social media promoting my work, networking, and engaging with my friends, family, and readers, I have not allowed my younger children, now 12 and 10 to use it. I had a temporary lapse of judgment and allowed them to start a YouTube channel where they weren’t showing their faces, but sharing info on toys – because it’s what all the cool kids are doing these days – but I almost immediately regretted and deleted it.

I never allowed my boys to jump on the Pokemon Go! bandwagon, and they do not have Facebook, or Instagram, or Snap, or any of it. The most they can do is play video games and we have to approve (and personally know) anyone they connect with online with for joint gaming. They do love to watch YouTube gaming videos, which means hours of setting up filters, and guards, and passwords, and online time limiting software to keep them away from the garbage often found there.

You would think that as a blogger who has experienced success online that I would be onboard with my kids picking up the tricks of the trade as soon and as much as possible, but after almost a decade exclusively working online, I would prefer they find success in other ways. If my kids never blogged outside of an official, paying job, I wouldn’t mind it at all.

Granted, it’s been easier for me to keep them off-line since I started homeschooling. There is no peer pressure for my boys, but before I took them out of school this pressure was mounting.

Even though most social media sites limit their services for users 13 and over, surveys have shown that over 50% of the respondents reported that their children created a social media account before the age of 12 (Source). And like my middle son and oldest, most kids get their first cellphone by age 10 because in many cases that’s when kids start doing things independently, like walking to school or going to sporting activities on their own.

Though my decision to keep my kids off of social media has been mostly based on their age, lack of maturity, as well as safety, it has been my experience online that has really served as a motivating factor to extend their time off social sites for as long as possible.

The Trolls and Bullies

As far as trolls go, I haven’t gotten as many as some of my peers in the space have – though the few that I have gotten have been pretty horrific. But I have friends who have been told to kill themselves simply for sharing a travel opinion, or insulted and threatened for the amount of melanin on their skin, or their religion or sexual orientation. We all know the extent to which most trolls and online bullies will go, and though we often imagine them being some adult nobody with no life of their own – and those do exist – a lot of times these trolls are other kids. I stopped working as a contributing blogger to parenting sites because of how vile and vicious and ugly the comments from other moms on many of those sites are. I don’t have comments open on my YouTube channel, and I don’t publish hate messages on my blog. Even as an adult who is confident in herself, content in her life, and emotionally and psychologically strong enough to move past these negative comments and attention, I wouldn’t want that to be a part of my everyday life. I wouldn’t want that to be what I wake up to in the morning or fall asleep after reading at night. It isn’t healthy for anyone to be exposed to that on a regular basis.

For kids, the impact of this type of feedback and commentary and judgement is even more damaging, and has proven to be life-threatening. Over 81% of teens admit that bullying is easier to get away with online. About 20% of kids that are cyber bullied think about suicide (source). Kids don’t always tell their parents either, which makes the ability to help them and help stop it so much harder.

The Emotional Toll

There are days when I need to get away from everything and completely disconnect. Over the past couple of years, I have done this more often, for longer periods of time.

The online space is fast and incredibly competitive. There is always a new trend, some new online strategy to take on to improve audience growth and online success. Over time, I have learned to stop caring as much and to ignore a lot of the noise, but I’ve seen how those still caught up in it, or even those who are just starting out, are affected. I have had many conversations with fellow bloggers and online influencers who struggle to find a sense of purpose and happiness and satisfaction, even as their online image shows them as having it all together. Making the choice to disconnect and slow down and not allow the pressure to always be on and connected has improved the way I approach my blogging and has enabled me to prioritize my life, my family, and all the in-betweens that I don’t need to share or write about and this has tremendously improved how I feel in general. Some of the most successful people I know online are incredibly unhappy in real life and that has helped push me to a better perspective when it comes to my life.

When it comes to kids, this impact is greater and has a long-lasting effect. A 2016 study published by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics suggests kids may actually feel less satisfied with their lives after spending merely an hour each day on social media (source).

“Chatting online, for example, has been linked to increased empathic concern for others, while use of photographic media (selfies) has been linked to narcissism and social comparisons,” the authors of the study concluded.

As the space becomes more and more crowded, with everyone seeking to profit from it and gain some fame in the process, a la Kardashian, the flaunting of who has it better, who does it more, who went the farthest, and who is more beautiful, adventurous, accomplished, talented, popular, well-liked, etc., becomes a daily, if not hourly race, consuming all of our time, our children’s time, leading to addictive behaviors, and consuming them with an obsession for things that are neither real nor attainable, that are superficial and shallow, and unfulfilling, even for most of the people promoting it all as their life.

The Moral Standard

This part is going to definitely make me sound like a mom…an old mom at that.

When I started blogging, and granted I was considered a mommy blogger at first because, well, I am a woman and I had kids and a blog, so duh, there were more of us in the space (though with very few exceptions) who sort of took pleasure in sharing the normal day-to-day of our lives, with a few tips in between (for example, I always wrote about life in NYC with kids – for the non-wealthy, non-celebrity among us). This was often ridiculed by traditional media and journalists who thought it insane that anyone who wrote about “diapers and breastfeeding” could possibly be seen as valuable and be considered worthy of any attention or respect – especially in the realm of media.

But marketers and advertisers took notice as we were speaking to the people, their consumer demographic, who trusted us a lot more than they did the journalists and others, or who enjoyed reading what we had to say because of its unfiltered, raw, and sincere nature.

However, once the marketers and advertisers came in with their marketing and advertising money, a lot of bloggers had to fall in line to fit that clean-cut, safe, sanitized, edited and filtered image that marketing and advertisers (and their clients) were used to and would feel comfortable in associating with their business or brand.

For all the ridiculing these pioneer blogging moms received, they helped to shape a landscape of blogging that launched careers, businesses, and ideas copied by many others across the online space. They changed the media landscape and how the world relates to it and works with it.

But the money and all the strings attached to it meant a sacrifice of that raw, authentic, real, not always so pretty aspect that was so inspirational for so many of us, as bloggers and readers.

Fast forward to today, and the blogging and social media world is nothing more than an extension of what traditional marketing and advertising has always been. Controversy sells, sure, but not to everyone…and even the Kardashians (might as well just continue to use them as an example) have to create some controversy to stay relevant in a world that will easily forget and replace you if you don’t continuously give them a reason to see you, but then clean it up and present an unattainable fantasy when it’s time to promote and sell their products or brands. While the some might have never imagined the Kardashians becoming the mega-influencers that they are today, these people have created a world of Instagrammers, bloggers, and influencers who mimic much of what they represent. And companies love it.

Pretty lives, in perfect packages, with stories that aren’t too off-putting to a standard demographic are the best, or commitment to a specific niche also works, but know that any changes in life, appearance, or interest that shifts from this niche will be the end of it all.

How many followers and likes you get measures your worth and value as a person, and for most brands, as someone to partner with. This leads to many people faking it till they make it. It’s why you can fake your Instagram pictures and still become even more popular in the process, with almost no one seeing what the problem is with that.

So when it comes to my kids, I have found that even while I think it’s important to move with this ever-changing space and find a middle ground that doesn’t sacrifice my principles, it’s also important to remind them about the things that truly matter, give them a different perspective – which is easier to do because social media is not a part of their world – and remind them that a lie, even if it doesn’t seem to hurt anyone, even if it comes wrapped in something pretty, and even if it seems no one cares, is STILL a lie and the worth of a human being is not in the number of their followers or comments on their feed, even though it seems that’s what society rewards these days.

This has always been a work in progress for me with my kids. Even as they got to see my career as a travel blogger grow and they benefitted from the travel and the rewards that having a successful career can offer, they have also seen the work, and the real sacrifices that have had to be made. They have watched me struggle through bad choices, and seen me walk away from opportunities that conflicted with my value system. I have talked to them about the times I have done a job that has made me proud, or walk away from work that would make me feel ashamed, even if no one else knew about the details of it.

I think that having kids while growing as a blogger and online brand has helped me stay focused and true to myself. I have made mistakes, trust me, but in general, I have tried to make sure that what my kids read about me later on, when they do get online, is something that they can be proud of. Hopefully this will guide their own online journey.

But until they can really grasp the longterm consequences of all of this, until they are not in an age where they can be so easily impressed and swayed by popularity standards, until they can better find their voices for those times when they need to speak up for themselves against the anonymous hateful cowards that they will surely encounter, I think I will hold off on social media for them.

I find this world incredibly fascinating. I think that it is full of so much potential. Our lives have been enriched from all of the opportunities and relationships and knowledge I have gained from it. But every time I log off, I see all those things offline too, often even more so.

My children will be plugged in in no time. But before they are, I want to make sure they learn to appreciate the many more important things that social media in all its glory will never be able to offer them. The relationships that they can form face-to-face, the conversations they can have without a device in hand. I want them to learn to express themselves courageously, directly, while looking at people in the eye. I want them to learn to love absolutely everything there is to love about a world unfiltered. I want them to learn to be and love themselves, no likes or number of followers attached.

 

Special note: This post is not a commentary or a judgement against any parent who has chosen a different path for their children. We all have our journeys and these shape our views and how we move forward in our lives. For those who struggle with this choice, this is one insight and opinion, but at the end of the day, you do with yours how you see fit.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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4 Responses to How blogging has motivated me to keep my young kids off of social media

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you, Carol! I’m completely on the same page as you. How do you keep them interested in other things, what’s your secret?

    • caincarol says:

      Truth is, they don\’t miss what they don\’t know. Because I haven\’t exposed them to it, they pretty much find other ways to spend their time…sort of how I spent my time when I was a kid before social media. So, riding their bikes, meeting in person with friends, going to a movie, reading a book. They play video games too. Normal kid stuff that isn\’t this filtered, unrealistic presentation of the world telling them who and what they should be.

  2. nnennaya says:

    Hmmm…social media is both a blessing and a cause. And unless we learn to handle it, we can end up falling deep into it that we lose focus of the real world. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Carol…it’s def a food for thoughts especially for we parents with young kids in this digital era.

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