Momservation: And we thought a 20-foot phone cord, Call-Waiting, and an answering machine was the height of modern communication…
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A few months ago my 12 year-old daughter asked me if she could have a Twitter account.
The good news is she asked first.
The bad news is she gave me this answer to my question of “Why?”:
“Because all my friends are doing it.”
That is always the wrong answer. How come kids never realize this is the Do Not Pass Go reason to a parent? Has there ever been a parent who then said, “Oh! All your friends are going to sneak out past curfew and meet down at the river with a keg tonight? Oh, okay then. Sure. Go.”
Since she did not have a good reason ready for why she so desperately needed to be on Twitter and I think it’s just one more colossal time suck for teenagers who already have enough forums to be vapid and self-obsessed, I said, “Okay, let’s see what you’re friends are saying on Twitter.”
I’m on Twitter for business purposes. I do not have a personal account. I am there as Momservations. (Something I pointed out to my daughter to show that if you have something of value to contribute—Twitter can be an important resource.)
The second thing I pointed out to her as I searched out her friends on Twitter was that I represented ANYONE who can view what her peers are putting out there for public consumption. (Another point: Only a few had a privacy setting.)
I quickly found “friends” who posted vital information like this:
“I’m so stoned right now!”
“If he’s going to be such a f**cking a**hole he can go suck someone’s d**k”
Retweeted: “How to get a white girl in bed” with a picture of a Starbucks condom.
I looked at my daughter who was perched over my shoulder. “So this is the conversation you’re dying to join? Should we see what other quality Tweets your friends have to share?”
“No. You made your point,” my daughter grudgingly said before dropping the Twitter issue.
This last weekend my 14 year-old son finally asked for a Twitter account. Exact same good news/bad news scenario.
But this time he pointed out (respectfully): whether I like it or not, Twitter is modern communication for teens.
And grudgingly, I had to admit he was right.
So taking into consideration his maturity, trustworthiness, social media usage and online intelligence, his dad and I agreed to these terms for him (and his now 13 year-old sister) for having a Twitter account:
- Same rules apply to all social media: abuse it lose it.
- Your account must be private with protected Tweets (only people you allow to Follow you can see them). No strangers allowed.
- I will be one of your Followers so I can see all your Tweets.
- You will pay the $10 a month surcharge for exceeding data usage because you are already regularly going over it just with Instagram.
But for those of you still on the fence about a Twitter account for your child, try taking my handy-dandy quiz:
Is Your Teen Ready for Twitter?
1. How many hours a day does your child spend outside playing?
a. All waking hours
b. Depend if there’s anyone to play with
2. How many social media accounts does your child have?
a. None. My kid doesn’t have a smart phone
b. A couple, but mainly they use Instagram
c. Instagram, SnapChat, Kik, AskFm, YouTube, Tumblr, Vine…
3. What is the first thing your child does when they wake up?
a. Go to the bathroom
b. Gets their phone off the charger to check Instagram
c. Looks at the phone that they slept with connected to a 10-foot charger to check all their social media accounts
4. If your child tells you they just talked with a friend, what does this actually mean?
a. They saw their friend in person and talked with them
b. They had a text conversation with a friend
c. They FaceTimed a friend while both said nothing as they surfed their social media accounts
5. How many times does your child’s phone give an alert at the dinner table?
a. Never. They don’t have a phone
b. At least three, but they aren’t allowed to check it because phones aren’t allowed at the table
c. Too many to count. Conversation with my child is nonexistent because they are too engrossed in phone interactions
6. What is the first thing your child does when they climb into a car driven by another adult?
a. Gives a polite greeting to the driver and engages in friendly conversation
b. Greets their friends in the car and takes their social cues from them (either talking and laughing or checking out each other’s social media)
c. Gives a barely discernable head nod before disappearing into an app on their phone
7. When your child is at an exciting an event, what do they do?
a. They are fully engaged, not wanting to miss a thing, excited to later share with a friend what a great experience it was
b. At all the best parts they stop to take a selfie (or if in a group have someone take a picture for them) and post it on Instagram so everyone can see how much fun they’re having and then keep having to be reminded to “Be present” instead of checking to see how many Likes they got
c. Not realize they are at an exciting event because they are more interested in the “social life” they have on their phone
8. What does your child give as a sample Tweet?
a. What’s a Tweet?
b. Braces off in 2 weeks!!!
c. Follow me @2hot2handle
9. What is the most important thing in your child’s life right now?
a. Family and friends
b. Seeing how many Followers and Likes they can get
c. B. plus video games, LiveStreaming, searching the web, a WiFi signal…
10. If you took your child’s phone away, what would they do?
a. Continue on with life because they didn’t have a phone to begin with
b. The Five Stages of Grief: Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance
c. Stop talking to you only to tell you they hate you and obsessively seek out other electronic devices either at home or somewhere else like a heroin addict desperate for a fix
If you answered mainly A:
Congratulations! You have a child untainted by modern technology! (You also probably do not have a teenager.) If you are lucky enough to have a child who isn’t constantly badgering you for a smart phone or prefers human interaction to virtual relationships—do everything in your power to keep it that way or enjoy it while you can.
If you answered mainly B:
Congratulations! You have a normal teenager! Yes, it’s annoying how much they are connected to their phones and social media, but this is the modern age of teenagers. Go ahead and let them have a Twitter, but continue to monitor social media habits so that they have boundaries and balance.
If you answered mainly C:
Uh-oh. It’s time for an intervention. Not only does your child not need Twitter (though they’ve probably already gotten an account without asking), you’re child needs to be weaned off of electronics. Start setting stricter ground rules, institute better balance in their lives, and make them put down their phones and be present. (Start by being a good role model and maybe putting down yours too).
Congratulations Carrie Young for winning the $25 Starbucks gift card for subscribing to Momservations in the month of April! Contact me to claim your prize!