May 24, 2018

My kids are fighting over media.

This isn’t the usual “get out of my room!” or “she did this to me” fighting.

They’re fighting about what to post on Instagram. 

One day it was a fight about posting a photo to commemorate National Siblings Day (the irony). The next day it was a screaming match about the social humiliation of posting the same photo.

In addition to the real-life stuff they’re managing, they’re interacting with a whole new world.

It’s big stuff to them. And it’s big stuff to me.

I’m outing myself here—because I’m not a mom who has forbidden social media. I’ve taken steps to limit it (I’ll share those below), but I wanted them to learn about the online world with me by their side and not when they started dating. Also, I’m on media too, so I’d be a hypocrite to forbid it altogether.

But I question myself on all this—often.

Did I do the right thing? Did I wait long enough to let them have accounts? How do the no-media parents handle their kids’ feeling left out socially? Is this going to damage their brain, vision, or attention-span? Are they safe on media? Am I even present enough to monitor the limits I’ve set? (frankly, somedays I’m not).

Is Instagram like crack-cocaine?

Getting lax about monitoring media can happen to any of us, especially when we’re overworked and just trying to get through the day.

Few of us are getting real (with ourselves and other moms) about the potential dangers of our kids’ media life. But we all have one thing in common—we want to do our best.

We might even be addicted to media ourselves, which complicates the issue. With the launch of Mystic Moms, I’ve been more distracted, preoccupied, and annoyed with social media than usual.

We moms can’t blame ourselves—but it helps to talk about it.

If your kids have been on media more than you’d like, you’re not alone.

Here’s my imperfect, non-expert advice:

  1. If you have older kids, don’t go blaming yourself. You can’t change the past, and you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.
  2. If you have younger kids, being aware of the downside is a good start. I kept my kids off media until they turned 10. Sometimes, I wished I waited longer. You’ll feel the pressure, so stick firm to whatever age you set and don’t give in to “everyone’s doing it.”
  3. I’ve limited social media to one platform, set on private. They aren’t allowed to accept friend requests from people they don’t know.
  4. I bought their devices, so I have the right to monitor it and check the conversations they’re having. I made this clear at the start.
  5. My kids don’t bring devices in their bedrooms.
  6. All devices are turned off at night, including wifi to limit EMF exposure while we sleep. We use old-fashioned alarm clocks instead of smartphones.
  7. Check out the family media plan at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx

The fighting in my house was a wakeup call for me.

I realized had to take the lead and redirect the energy in my family.

My declaration moving forward:

I intend to take clear responsibility for the media culture in my family (my kids are young), and constantly revisit this as they get older.

I intend to do this imperfectly. I know I’ll screw up often, and I’m okay with that because I’m human.

I can’t change the decisions I made in the past.

I’m doing the best I can as a busy mom in this fast-paced, wired world.

Since the wakeup call, I’ve been unplugging more, spending more time outside with my kids and noticing when I’m distracted or frustrated with my own media use. I’m working on keeping myself in balance and helping my kids to do the same. I’m still making mistakes but things are much better!

My kids are back to their usual fights about personal space, privacy and whose turn it is to wash the dishes. This feels more manageable.

I’d love to hear how you’re managing media in your family. Does it help to talk about it?

We can do hard things—together.

Much love,

Carolyn

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