A couple of
years ago, a picture of my son appeared on Instagram. It was edited and layered and captioned with
a John Mayer lyric. Although I was
tagged in the photo, I didn't recognize the account. That was the day that I realized that
Instagram wasn't just for photo sharing.
My husband is a
musician and, although I'm a psychotherapist, I'm also a writer. It's difficult to set family and "real life"
friend-only boundaries on social media when your work is out there. People find you. More often than not, people are kind and
supportive. But that picture of my
little boy, the one I didn't approve of or even know existed, caused me to
As it turns out,
the account was a "second account" for someone I do know well, and that person
snapped the photo with her phone. That
was a relief. But I took the opportunity to reevaluate my use of Instagram.
Where I once
used Instagram to share family moments, I now use it in a different way. Very rarely do I share pictures of my kids
facing the camera these days. I share small moments of happiness, but I don't
I wouldn't say
that I'm paranoid about sharing photos—I'm no professional photographer,
that's for sure. I'm not sure any of my
pictures are worth scraping for reuse. What I realized along the way is that I want to keep those moments
private. I want my family moments to be
mine (or ours, really). So I started following my own rule when it comes to
sharing—wait one minute before hiting post, then decide if something is really
The trick is to
start the conversation early, as in before they even have access, and repeat it
daughter recently asked me about Instagram. Evidently it was the talk of the 2nd grade last week. We talked about sharing memories online,
connecting with other people through apps and what it means to be kind
online. We discussed asking
before sharing and only sharing positive images (even if that earns me "Fakebook" status).
Then I let her scroll through my Instagram
photos. She was surprised that the pictures
of her didn't show her face, because I take so many pictures every week. She knows that she looks directly into the camera more often than not. And that's when we circled back to privacy. Even at 8, she needs to know that she has a right to privacy.
In her new book,
Wins," author Galit Breen helps parents teach their kids how to be kind
online. "I know we need to directly
teach our children the most vital lessons," says Breen, "rather than assume
that they'll be understood."
Try a few these
strategies to help teach your kids to be kind online.
Breen, the best way to help our kids learn to spread kindness online is to give
them opportunities to practice. Not only
do they need to see what's happening with kids their age online, they need to
Friendships play out in clips and snapshots on social media, and this can complicate real-life relationships.
pictures and comments. Discuss what the
comments might mean and ask your child to point out kind vs. unkind
comments. Don't worry if your tween or
teen has difficulty identifying potentially hurtful comments or hashtags at
first. Learning to navigate the nuances
of social media takes practice and patience. Open communication is the best way to empower your kids to make kind
Think beyond the screen
out in clips and snapshots on social media, and this can complicate real-life
relationships. A kid might be listed as
a best friend one day and then nothing the next. When one kid is habitually cropped out of the
photo, feelings are hurt.
Teach your child
to think beyond the screen. At the other
end of any given social media feed are other eyes, and those eyes might feel
hurt, jealous or rejected in response to certain photos, comments and
Instagram games. Kids need to learn to
lead with empathy. Talk about the
importance of considering the thoughts and feelings of other kids before posting or commenting.
Talk about standing up for others
difficult to be the one who stands up to a bully, both online and in real
life. But if we want kindness to win, we
have to empower our kids to stand up to negativity. It's important to remember that standing up
to negativity doesn't have to be a huge gesture or spark a fight with a
peer. Sometimes something as simple as a
compliment can counteract a negative comment.
Teach your child
to support peers online by using kind words and positive phrases. Help your child pinpoint negative behaviors
using real examples, then discuss and practice ways to respond to those
kindness isn't a one-time conversation. The sooner you discuss it, the sooner you empower your child to choose
kindness. Check in often and keep the
door open. Navigating adolescence is no
easy task and your kids need unconditional love and support every single