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ASK TEENA: January 2016

Dear Teena,

My 9-year-old little sister got an iPhone for Christmas. I was walking by her earlier and just happened to notice she was setting up an Instagram account. My mom doesn’t really understand social media and hasn’t talked to her about being safe online at all. What should I do? Do I tell my mom I thinks she’s too young to have Instagram, or should I go to my sister directly? What do I say?? I don’t want to sound like the mean older sister, I just think she is way too young to be on Instagram, and I’m worried about her.

Thank you!

Concerned Older Sister

 

Dear Concerned Older Sister,

First of all, I just want to say how proud I am of you for being such a great older sister. She is lucky to have you looking out for her! The whole question of “How young is too young for social media” is a really tough one. You know your sister better than anyone, and if you don’t think she is ready to be online, then she’s not ready. Nine years old is really young. A lot of parents don’t fully understand the way social media, especially Instagram and Twitter, work. They think that because there are lots of girls her age on there, that it is safe. This is a huge mistake. I would suggest talking to your mom about this first. However, don’t just tell her your sister shouldn’t be allowed to have social media. Tell her about privacy settings, how even if her account is on private, her pictures are out there in cyberspace. Show her facts and statistics about the effects of Instagram on a pre-teen girl’s self-esteem. By calmly explaining the facts to her, she will most likely make the same conclusion you already have – she’s just too young. Now, for whatever reason, if this doesn’t work, you can always try talking to your sister directly. I will warn you – if you end up doing this, there’s a chance she won’t take it well. She might think you are being a “mean older sister” as you said, she will probably tell you all her friends have it, and you don’t know what you are talking about. All totally normal sister behavior, right? If you take the same approach with her that you did with your mom, she will eventually understand you’re doing this because you care about her, her safety, and her well-being. If all else fails and she keeps her Instagram account, add her and support her through it. That way, you can at least see who is talking to her, and what kinds of photos she is posting. She will thank you in the long run. (Maybe not today, though.)

Good luck, and I will say it again… I’m so proud of you! I wish I had an older sister like you growing up.

Sincerely,

Teena

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