ASK MOM: Constant posting online turning daughter into a fakeJan 10, 2023 01:22AM ● By Mary Follin & Erika Guerrero
Drawing by Suzanne Johnson
THE PROBLEM: I’m so sick of social media! I feel like it’s turning my daughter into a fake self, someone who no longer resembles the sweet girl I knew. (She’s in eighth grade.) She spends her days reporting on all the gossip she hears, talking about her emotions (inappropriately), and making snide remarks, mostly about her two brothers. For some reason, she doesn’t understand that what she puts online stays online and is just as powerful as what you say to somebody’s face, maybe even more. She doesn’t believe me, though, because she’s gaining followers and popularity from it. How to get her to stop this?
MARY SAYS: The only way to get your daughter to ‘stop’ is by taking her phone away. But if you want to keep peace in your household, you may need to take a different approach—one that will develop healthier habits in the long run, anyway.
Start by letting your daughter know that her phone—and more specifically social media—is a privilege, not a right, and that you are now going to put conditions on how she uses it.
This conversation needs to be held with intention and not just a ‘drive-by’ in the kitchen before school. Sit down with her and tell her which of her behaviors are disturbing you—and why.
You describe your daughter as sweet, which is going to make this easier to negotiate. Ask her to be more thoughtful on social media and to put herself inside her subject's heart every single time she posts.
Now for your two conditions:
1) She must allow you to monitor her feed and bring to her attention content that may be harmful to somebody else.
2) She must choose a local organization where she can spend her time helping others: a rescue society, a senior center, or a local food bank.
What your daughter is lacking by becoming ‘someone else’ online is empathy, which comes naturally if exercised enough. Without an actual person in front of us—hurt expressions, scared eyes, slumped-over shoulders—it’s easy to forget we’re writing about people when we post online.
Spending time with people—or animals—who are facing tough times will awaken your daughter's sleeping heart and quickly bring it back online.
ERIKA SAYS: For all the reasons you have described, I believe kids shouldn’t have unlimited access to social media. The internet and socials can be toxic—even for adults. There are also a number of perpetrators online, lurking quietly, looking for opportunities to connect with our kids.
Of the many resolutions for this issue, the harshest would be to remove all access and slowly reintroduce boundaries by putting rules in place. While you may be inclined to take such drastic measures, this will likely cause the most drama and tension in your household.
Are prepared for that?
If you want to take a more gradual approach, begin by learning why your daughter finds her online activities so intriguing and who influences her. When you learn more about her preferences, you will gain a better understanding of who she is and how she presents herself online.
Once you know what motivates her, you can decide how to approach the situation and counter what she is picking up from the internet with values that are more aligned with your family’s beliefs.
I encourage you to lay down a family challenge where you all take a fast from social media—perhaps for one week. During that time, focus on what matters most to your family, understanding online safety, and how one’s words can either contribute to or alleviate internet toxicity.
Encourage your daughter to be a light to others and let herself be influenced by positive role models. Although I’ve seen pretty ugly things online, I have also seen a lot of good.
When you break your social media fast, do so by putting rules and boundaries in place. Don’t allow your daughter to spend all her time there; instead, encourage her to develop new interests that bring creativity and positivity to the people in her world.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
If you have a question for Mary and Erika, we’d love to hear from you! [email protected]
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Mary Follin is the author of Teach Your Child to Read™ and ETHYR, winner of the Moonbeam Children's Book Award and the Gertrude Warner Book Award. She is mom to two grown sons and enjoys sharing her more seasoned perspective with parents of younger children.
Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.