My 13 year old daughter, Bailey, asked me the other day, “Dad, can I please have an Instagram account?” Before I could even answer the question she followed that up with, “I know what you’re going to say, but please can I have one?” She knows me well. She went on to say that I can trust her and that she would keep it private, etc. My answer was, “I’m not worried about you, I’m worried about the wackos in cyberspace” and I left the discussion with, “Let me talk to your mother about it.” The truth of the matter is that for the most part I probably can trust her, but there are still huge questions and cautions I have about allowing her into this world. The words temptation, innocence, victim, and bullying are ringing through my mind as I ponder this question. As a parent, this is a scary question with a complicated answer.
During the last three weeks of school I’ve had to deal with two major issues involving students at Poet and things going on in social media with students at other schools. For the most part one of the issues is mostly resolved, but the other one is ongoing and I will be spending countless more hours addressing it to make sure life for our students doesn’t end in trouble and discipline. I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to address issues created by Instagram, Facebook, KIK, and all of the other social media platforms out there. When printouts float across my desk, the first question I have to address is this, “Is this school related?” Just because all of the students involved may go to Poet, it doesn’t mean that I have jurisdiction to do anything. If it’s happening at night or on the weekends, it’s challenging to find a connection. It has to manifest itself in something that is happening at school. This is truly frustrating for parents who come to me for help. First let me say that I will do everything I can to resolve the issues. Sometimes, however, the only thing I can do is talk with students and families to see if there is a solution to the mess. So what is the message I am trying to make with this? Be careful and cautious and understand that truly horrifying things happen on social media every day. I have notebooks filled with nightmares and this is not an exaggeration. Sadly, both my daughters have heard my rantings about the evils of social media all too often. This brings me back to my daughter’s question. I’m currently at 99% “no” and 1% “I’m thinking about it”. The timing of her request could not have come at a worse time. So again… be careful, cautious, and monitor regularly if you decide to let your children into that world. I know it’s an inevitable future, but it’s our responsibility as parents to ensure that they make good choices and are safe from the dangers in cyberspace.