Dear Kid Whisperer,
I’m a single dad and my daughter and I have had an ongoing fight for the last few years about social media. She is fourteen and wants to have social media accounts. I believe that social media is bad for children. I actually think it’s bad for everyone. I don’t even have a Facebook account. She is very distressed about it (all of her friends are on it) and I’m thinking about letting her have a Facebook account, even though I think the negatives of being on Facebook far outweigh the positives. What’s your advice? -Fred, Atlanta, Georgia
Let me simplify your question so that I can clarify what you are really asking me, and I will answer that simplified question before I go into greater detail:
Dear Kid Whisperer,
My kid wants to do something that I know is bad for her. Should I let her do it? -Fred, Atlanta, Georgia
Of course not.
I happen to agree with you about social media, but that’s not the point I’m making, because I’m not an expert on social media. I am an expert at showing people how to calmly set limits and get exactly the behaviors they want, according to their values, from kids. It’s none of my business how you feel about social media. It is my business, since you asked me, to show you how to set limits while strengthening your relationship with your daughter.
Before we get to that, here’s a full list of people whose opinions about how to raise your daughter in the digital age are also irrelevant:
- Everyone but you, not including your daughter
- Your daughter
You are the parent. You have a led a life during which you have gleaned wisdom. You are now using that wisdom to raise your daughter the best way you know how. That’s all you can do. That’s all anyone can do. You are the head of your household, and your rules are your rules. Your daughter can have any opinions that she wishes to have about social media and she can give her opinions in kind and respectful ways, but you will be making the rules according to your value structure, not hers.
Here’s how I would handle the situation in question:
Kid: But it’s not fair! Why am I the only one in my entire school who doesn’t have social media??
Kid Whisperer: I think their parents let them have social media accounts, and you have a parent who doesn’t let you have social media accounts.
Kid: It isn’t fair!
Kid Whisperer: I have given you my reasons. Thanks for understanding. I know that you will get through this tough time. Only four more years until you are an adult.
Kid: That’s right! I will be on every social media platform imaginable!
Kid Whisperer: Adulthood is definitely an exciting time for big choices.
Kid: But this is morally wrong!
Kid Whisperer: Yeesh. I don’t argue.
Kid: But you are ruining my life!
Kid Whisperer: And what did I say?
Notice that we set limits without being drawn into an argument, and without getting angry or becoming resentful. If you stick to your guns and set the limit without repeatedly explaining or arguing, you can improve your relationship while setting limits that you feel are best for your family.