Should Parents Let Young Children Use Instagram? (Yes)

photo-1 copy 8My 9-year-old daughter has an Instagram, and she posts selfies and lots and lots of videos.

Also, guess what? When a plane’s preparing for takeoff, I don’t power down my cell phone. I’m serious. I just leave the thing on and I don’t even bother with putting it in Airplane Mode. (Sometimes I even take pictures of the takeoff and message them to my friends before we soar out of range; by the time I land I have 5-10 messages that say “U R CRAY, BRO!”)

Anyway, yeah, my daughter has an Instagram and I think maybe 250 people have told me how sexual predators, tortured and compelled by base desires beyond their control, spend countless hours cruising Instagram, use geocoding to locate their prey, and then could easily go find them and perform unspeakable predatory acts upon their young innocences. The key word in that last sentence is “could”. I Googled a bunch of permutations of words like “Instagram,” “predator,” “child,” “rape,” “murder,” and guess what I found: hundreds and hundreds of pages written by “Parenting Experts” about the dangers that Instagram (and social media in general) pose to children. All kinds of bad stuff COULD happen. All the worst things MIGHT happen. If you snap a selfie in the mirror at midnight in Macon County, the Devil might maybe possibly come down to Georgia (okay, I made that one up).

But what I didn’t find was one case where a sexual predator used Instagram to actually find a kid and harm them. NOW, I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened. In fact, I’m betting I catch a few links from this post about grisly events that will make me wince. But even if it has happened, it certainly hasn’t happened in numbers that warrant the flood of fear and warnings about how it could happen. Lots of stuff could happen. Enthusiastic sexual predators with lots of gumption don’t need social media to find prey. In fact, using social media seems to add a bunch of unnecessary steps to the process. All a skilled sexual predator needs is a playground and some candy. Still, I would rather let my daughter go to the playground AND use Instagram than have her in the car with me on the 15 in Las Vegas after 10 PM. But where are all the articles decrying highway travel with children after 10 PM in the big city?

Listen. Stop. Slow down. We are losing our minds about social media. And the reason all the “Parenting Experts” keep churning out copy about social media danger is because we keep clicking and reading and stoking our fear. The threat of terrorism used to be enough for us to get our spook on, but the terrorists have left us a little flat. But have you heard about – OMG – social media and all the things that might happen?

Here’s something that might happen. Our kids might use social media to have a lot of fun and experiment with things like – brace yourself – photography and filmmaking. My daughter is NINE. And she’s already impressively skilled at using Instagram to make little movies. She’s editing video, for crying out loud. She and her friends have their hands on the tools through which people in the twenty-first century will continually evolve and refine the process of constructing cultural artifacts. Yes, I’m talking about art. And if you think that your kid is somehow better off or more grounded or, worse, more authentic because they only use crayons and Legos to express themselves, then good on you for raising dinosaurs. Good luck, authentic Rex.

But we’re creating narcissists who can’t write in cursive and cue REM because it IS the end of the world as we know it, and good riddance. When you consider the innovation in painting caused by the camera and the impact of film on the way we write novels, how can the Internet and social media not have you on the edge of your seats in anticipation of what comes next? Still digging in your heels? That’s not genuine fear and concern for the future. That’s inertia producing nostalgia for your childhood as your 40s hack away at your well-being. If all the fear and panic about the dangers of the Internet aren’t merely our need to cast our Shadows in the world (we need a new USSR or, maybe, we could consider growing up), then perhaps it’s lodged in the illusion that we can fend off our own deaths if only we keep the future from arriving.

But the future is coming whether you photograph yourself in the mirror or not. Hell. You should go try it. I mean, okay, yes, a predator could find you and perform unspeakable acts on your person. You know what else? A plane might crash in your house. Or maybe you’ll just see yourself. Have you ever really seen yourself?
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Read more from me at Black Hockey Jesus.

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