Shepherding the Family through Social Media

maryannphoto“Mommy, can I have an Instagram account?” my daughter asked from the back seat of the van. We were on our way home from a retreat I’d led for a church in South Carolina. I’d decided to bring the family with me—the retreat was in Myrtle Beach; enough said—and they’d had a great time. The kids met all kinds of new friends and made plans to keep in touch. Apparently Instagram was the preferred method.

Unfortunately, my daughter is 11, and the Instagram terms of service specify a minimum age of 13.

What’s a rule-following mother to do? I don’t want to give her the impression that it’s OK to bend the rules, even in a trivial matter. And maybe this matter isn’t so trivial. Does an 11 year old need an Instagram account yet? I’d love to nurture these fledgling friendships, but can’t I keep her young and social-media sheltered for just a little while longer? Whom is she likely to encounter on these sites? Friends, of course, just like I happily do. But what about people who might do her harm?

I am confronted with these questions even as I work on my next book, Spirituality in the Smartphone Age, which is an attempt to examine this digital culture we all swim in. As I write, I’m trying to discern some spiritually faithful patterns and practices for engaging with technology. How much is too much? What does it mean to be “authentic” online? How can we be mindful of personal boundaries? What does meaningful community look like?

One of the challenges in writing the book is defining what I mean by spirituality, as opposed to the psychology or sociology of digital culture. Other authors have explored quite thoroughly the ways the Internet has changed the way we work, play, and relate with one another. What I’m after is something simultaneously deeper and broader: a holistic approach that integrates body, mind, spirit, and community.

But the other challenge in writing the book is that I’m so very confused and ambivalent myself about our technological age and how it is changing us.

READ THE REST at the Practicing Families website.

Photo credit: MikaelWiman via photopin cc

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About MaryAnn

pastor, writer, haphazard knitter
This entry was posted in Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Shepherding the Family through Social Media

  1. Christine H. says:

    Can meaningful community exist on instragram? In theory, yes. More often, though, I see kids being followed by or following sketchy people, feeling left out that they weren’t invited to the mall where the group posted a picture, bullying, and posting inappropriate or personal info to get likes. We struggle with age limits, too (ours are 5th and 7th grade) but have stood by our decision that they must be at least the minimum age required by the app – even though the overwhelming majority of kids in their grades are on instagram. So far though, the age limit rule has kept them out of some tricky situations that peers have gotten into. I look forward to your next book!

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