Should I allow my child to use social media?
This is a question that our parents never had to think about, so we are the first generation of parents trying to navigate all this. No doubt we will screw it up somewhere along the way!
I first wrote about this six or 7 years ago. My son was about 10 at the time and really wanted to start his own YouTube channel. I thought it was about time I updated the post and filled you in with what happened since. And then hopefully it will help other parents navigate the minefield!
It started off with my child wanting to use social media, specifically YouTube. not just as a consumer, he wanted to be a creator too. He wanted to start a taste-testing show, where he would try different food each week.
I agreed to this idea but it had to have rules in place. They were:
1. He only uses his nickname online (as you know I have been doing this for years)
2. He never shares where we live other than “Japan” or any other personal information.
3. All comments will be moderated by me (if anything mean or nasty is said, they will have to deal with mama bear!)
4. His channel would be set up on my account and he wasn’t to open his own account until he was legally old enough (it’s 13 for most platforms)
5. If it stops being fun, we stop doing it.
6. I have the right to amend the rules if I see the need to do so (hahaha, need this clause in there!)
He agreed that they were fair and we talked about why the rules were in place.
The Ebi-kun eats show
This turned out to be a great learning experience. He recorded 85 shows and put them out weekly. He was responsible for setting up each video, researching the keywords, doing the SEO, editing, making the covers etc.
He had a pretty positive experience with it all and we had people send us weird and wonderful food to try from all over the world.
Eventually, other interests took over and he stopped recording the videos – but not trying new foods! If fact, we recently took it up again but doing them as reels over on the 193 Little Adventures Instagram channel.
Here is one of my favourite ones from the original show…
YouTube has made an effort to make it a safer place for kids (although it’s not perfect) since we did the Ebi-kun eats show.
The only incident we had, which I caught before it went anywhere or got published. Was some bullying. And this was exactly why I was filtering the comments.
The bullying wasn’t aimed at my son but rather another kid who often commented on the Ebi-kun eats show. I happen to know the mom of the bullied kid and sent her screenshots of what was going on.
As it turned out, she knew the bully’s mom and dealt with it.
I used it as a teaching moment with Ebi-kun. We talked about what had happened and what he would do if he had come across the bullying. I’m a big believer that having that open dialogue is really important and that it shouldn’t be a ‘serious sit-down chat’ but rather something we talk about often.
What other social media does he use?
As of writing, he is now 17 years old! When he was a tween, he wasn’t really interested in any of it. His mates were not online, most of them didn’t have a phone and so it wasn’t really an issue. Those that were used Line which is a popular Japanese platform.
We did however keep the conversation open about internet safety. If something came up in the news, we talk about it. If there is a documentary out, such as the Social Dilemma, we watch it together.
When he took up bouldering he started an Instagram channel where he basically just posts bouldering videos but he’s not very active there. He has a Facebook account because he uses the Oculus for N-school and so he needs to have an account. He rarely logs into it.
Discord he uses for gaming stuff but he’s not on it much. His social media poison of choice…
Who’d have thought? He mainly posts about football. He runs a couple of accounts and loves it. He has found some good friends over there. That did have me worried at one stage because he wanted to meet up with a couple of these random people in Tokyo.
Of course, we had talked about grooming and all the dodgy stuff that goes on. You can never be too careful. We decided that his dad would go with him and check out that they were who they said they were.
And they were just two regular teens. So he left them to it. I was a bit concerned that this 15-year-old girl rocked up and her parents had no idea who she was meeting or where.
What about screentime?
Does he spend a lot of time on the screen? Yes, and part of that was down to homeschooling and the pandemic. I explain what school is like in Japan and about home school here. His social network was pretty much all online for a while.
That said, we do still use the golden rule to keep it under control (not just him, us too). You can read how to limit kid’s screen time with one golden rule here.
Having interests that are off-screen really helps us too. he still does Aikido every week, boulders two or three times a week and does footsal whenever possible.
My takeaways from my child to using social media
I’m grateful that we haven’t had to deal with online bullying. In some ways, we have had it easy. Because his friends weren’t into TikTok or those types of apps, he has never really bothered with all that.
The biggest thing was having an open dialogue about it. Talking about the risks, being totally upfront about grooming and all the other horrors that exist but also the positives.
Building trust and allowing him to explore and try things out but also that he knows we have his back if need be.
I have asked him how he feels. He thought we were being a bit too over-protective when he wanted to meet his Twitter friends but because he knows about grooming, understands why we were concerned.
We have never gone down the route of banning phone use or poking around on his phone without permission because that’s a great way to break his trust. That said, he does know that if we thought it was necessary, we would.
I hope that helps, it is a scary minefield out there and we are the first ones doing it!