Is your daughter emotionally ready for Instagram?

It was an innocent post of four girls who had gone to dinner, taken a picture and posted it on Instagram.

Within minutes, one girl received a text from her mom asking her to take the picture down. The mom had received a text from another mom whose daughter was crying at home because she wasn’t invited to dinner, and she thought it’d be best if the picture was deleted.

I understand the mom’s intention. I know what it’s like to have a daughter who is scrolling through Instagram and realizes she was left out. Nobody likes to see their friends having fun without them. And for a mother, there is nothing worse than seeing your child upset.

But what I’ve realized about scenarios like this is how it doesn’t help the child when we hastily try to fix whatever makes them sad. If anything, we prevent them from developing the coping skills they need both now and in the future.

Because here’s the thing: If you’re on social media, you’re going to have moments where you feel left out, forgotten or excluded. This fact remains true whether you’re 16, 46 or 90.

And while we can’t control what pops up in our child’s news feed, we can help them deal with the feelings that arise when a picture or a post triggers an all-familiar pang of hurt in their heart.

There’s been a lot of press lately on the harmful side effects of social media, and studies now show how Instagram is the most damaging social media platform when it comes to young people’s mental health. More than any forum — even Snapchat — it can make girls feel lonely, depressed and anxious. This is serious stuff, and as we parents we must keep it in mind as we decide what’s best for our child.

For this reason, among others, I believe in talking through the emotional impact of Instagram upfront. When your daughter comes home from school one day asking for an account because all her friends have one, and your mind starts racing with parental questions like:

► Is she mature enough to use Instagram responsibly and safely?

► Does she understand online safety, keeping a private account, and accepting only the followers she knows?

► Does she know the truth about her identity and self-worth so she doesn’t define herself by her “likes”?

► Does she show good judgment in knowing what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate in the posts and comments she makes?Add another question to your list. Think through the silent risk that can mess with a girl’s psyche (and her mother’s) by considering this:► Is my daughter emotionally ready for Instagram?► Can she handle the hard and unpleasant emotions that get triggered in […]

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