Today’s highly technological and connected culture requires that parents step up their game when it comes to guiding their kids through the use of technology and social media. I saw this article on CNET recently called “How Instagram became the social network for tweens ” that really brings to light some aspects of parenting that are entirely new for our time. Here’s an excerpt:

Just like Facebook, you technically have to be 13 to have an Instagram account. And, just like Facebook, Instagram is more or less a social network, dark sides included. Kids post photos, their followers comment… and then those not invited to said birthday party or shopping excursion get hurt feelings.

Many of us adults discovered Instagram as a nifty photo-sharing app that’s lets you spruce up your photos with cool filters. But it has all the functionality of a social network, which Instagram founder Kevin Systrom says was by design….

According to Nielsen, for example, Instagram is the top photography site among teens ages 12 to 17, with 1 million teens visiting the site during July. Nielsen doesn’t categorize Instagram as a social network. While Flickr was top photo site for the overall population in July, Instagram was the favorite among teens, Nielsen found.

Add to that an earlier Nielsen study on growing popularity of Facebook and social networks in general among teenagers, and yet another on how teens tripled their mobile data consumption between December 2010 and December 2011, and the picture becomes clear.

Also, a Pew report presented over the summer about teenage online behavior found that 45 percent of online 12-year-olds use social-network sites and that the number doubles to 82 percent for 13-year-old Internet users. The most popular activity for teens on social networks is posting photos and videos, the study found….

We parents have been advised over and over again by educators that our tween-age kids are just too young for Facebook. Most are just not mature enough to gauge what’s appropriate for posting and to know how to respond to cyberbullying or contacts from strangers or spammers.

But with Instagram our guards were down. We never really imagined how it would be used. When my daughter asked permission to download the app, I was frankly excited that she was showing interest in photography. I love using the app and was unaware of the age restriction.

I had heard stories of kids on Instagram who had lost friends over not being included in activities posted to the site. But I only really caught onto Instagram’s ubiquity as a tweenage social network the day before school started this year, when my daughter’s middle school sent out class schedules to individual families using its password protected Web site. Within an hour of viewing the class schedule, my daughter had scribbled out a chart of who was in each of her classes. When I asked how she had figured it all out, she responded, “Everybody posted their schedules on Instagram.”…

Read the full article here.

There are a lot of things to consider when helping our children navigate the world of technology, apps, and social media. Things like telling the truth, being kind, relationships, bullying, purity, thinking about the future, privacy, etc. . . These are all factors that kids need to learn to think about in such highly public forums as these.

I think one of the most important aspects of parenting kids through this is maintaining an open relationship of trust and love, so that your kids will be comfortable sharing their thoughts with you, and so they  will respect you enough to listen to what you say.

How are you helping your children navigate in a hyper-connected world?


Matt loves his wife Jessica and their two sons, Patriot and Azlan. He has a passion for making a difference, marketing, technology, and sports.