Recently, I attempted to explain Instagram and teens to a mom friend, "Amy," who has younger kids. Since Laura been on Instagram for a couple of months and is 13, I felt I was qualified for the job.
"It's like this," I started, "Kids put up pictures. Usually selfies. Sometimes they humiliate their friends by putting up unflattering photos of each other. Often the photo's subject is trying to cover their face with their hands."
Amy nodded. This was tame. She lifted her eyebrow; she wanted some dirt.
"I've seen some weird photos they get from other places, too. I'm not sure where they originate. I haven't progressed beyond putting up posts about books I am reading and the occasional food item." I shrugged apologetically, continuing, "But they do get into sex. I hate to say it but there is some sex on Instagram."
Mom-pal perked up. This. She was sure this was it. All teenagers are depraved, hormonally-charged lunatics just looking to hook up via Instagram or Snapchat.
"In fact, Laura even posted about sex once."
Ooh, boy, this was some good stuff. I could see the Facebook status forming in her mind as her eyes darted toward her cell phone:
Some parents are a little permissive these days. Their kids post about sex on Instagram and then the parents BRAG about it. What is up with these parents? Don't they CARE?!
"She took a photo of a bumper sticker showed a stick man and woman equating marriage. She didn't like that. She has some gay friends and I guess she figures they deserve the chance to get married someday, too."
Amy's face fell. This actually wasn't very juicy.
"But," I continued, "I am concerned about her friends with public accounts. They post tons of selfies and moody, angry, sometimes outright sad and self-hating stuff. I wonder why those accounts aren't private or at least monitored more by their parents. I'm not thrilled that Laura is seeing this stuff, but her account is private and I have access to it, so I can see everything she posts and everything her friends post. Can you imagine the world seeing your diary from when you were 13?"
"Exactly," I said. "My one word of advice to parents whose kids are on social media is MONITOR. That's it, please just monitor your child's account."
Mary Becelia lives in Southern Stafford and keeps busy keeping up with the middle school crowd on Instagram. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it!