Getting Started on Instagram as a Family
“Mom, how do you spell the name of this game again?” asks my seven-year-old, turning his iPad to me.
“Why?” I ask, knowing he already has the game loaded. As I glance at his screen, I can see that he’s taken a screenshot of the cats visiting his yard in Neko Atsume. “I want to hashtag it,” he replies.
(My kids’ Instagram accounts are private, but you can follow @kirstensdigitallife where I’ll share their best posts.)
He’s only posted to Instagram 36 times in the year since we started using Instagram as a family. And, this post fits perfectly with his cat theme — a focus that started when he decided to name the account after our family cat. (See my last blog post “We’re Making Instagram a Family Experience“)
I seriously love these quick conversations with my budding digital strategists. I am a big believer that screen time can create connection, not just divide us, when we’re intentional about it. Using Instagram as a family has sparked great conversations and has given me lots of opportunities to learn about my boys.
If you’re considering starting Instagram as a family, it’s important to open with good conversation about expectations. Here are some of the important conversations we’ve had along this journey.
Start with why. Why do you want an Instagram account? What do you think will be fun about it? What do you think you’ll use it for? Understanding why helps to open up the conversation. It can also provide clues for how you can help your kids find interesting new accounts to follow, such as their favorite sports team or TV show.
Keep it private. In our family, kids’ accounts must be private. That means that anyone who wants to follow their posts has to be approved to follow. And, we talk about new follow requests before they approve them. This helps ensure that we’re only growing our social media experience as fast as we’re ready to. For our youngest son, it means that he’s really only followed by a small number of friends and family members. (You’ll find the “Private Account” setting in the profile. Click on the cog in the upper right corner of the app to get to the Options and make sure “Private Account” is toggled on.)
This is a family experience. Social media is a family experience at our house. That means a few different things for us. First, it means that we follow and connect with each other — no exceptions. It also means, as parents, that we will likely follow anyone that you follow. A family experience means that we’ll check in regularly and that we’ll talk about it if we see anything inappropriate.
Think before you post. Remember you’re creating a digital footprint that can potentially be around forever. So, think about what you post before you post it. If you think you might feel differently about something with a deep breath or a good night’s sleep – do that before you post.
Be your best self. Be nice. Be real. Don’t be fake. If you can’t be your best self walk away.
Most importantly, don’t think of these as one-time conversations. Think of this as an ongoing family dialogue. Digital parenting is a practice, not a task crossed off a list. I look forward to diving deeper into these topics with you. Next week, I’ll share how we approach our Instagram family checkins.