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March 6, 2019

My Parents Won’t Let Me Use Social Media Like My Friends!

Dear Nikki,

I know a lot of friends with social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram. But, whenever I beg my parents for a social media account of my own, they always say no. Why won’t they let me have one and how do I get them to change their minds?

Social Media Misery

Hi Social Media Misery,

I totally get your misery! My parents let me do some social media, but they didn’t for a long time. And I really felt like I was missing out! I always felt like “everyone else” was on social media having a big party without me. It’s never fun to feel left out, whether you didn’t get invited to a sleepover or you couldn’t comment on a funny picture.

To help you understand why your parents won’t allow you to have a social media account, let’s talk about the other side for a sec. First, you actually have to be 13 to have an account with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, and Snapchat. Like, according to the thing you sign when you say you’ve read the “terms of service.” So if you’re 13 or over, you can ignore this next part. But if you’re under 13, your parents would have to break a law meant to keep kids safe online. Sure, plenty of kids under 13 have accounts, but only because they’ve lied or their parents have lied in setting up accounts. So your parents may have strongly held morals that are admirable (even though they’re totally frustrating).

It may not be about age, though. Your parents might be worried about social media becoming a big distraction that takes time away from your family or your schoolwork. They might be worried about cyber-bullying, and that’s no joke! Kids deal with serious depression over things like who un-friended them or posted secrets about them for everyone to see. Your parents also might be worried about internet stalkers, or people who keep pestering you and take all the fun out of the social media experience. These are all understandable concerns for your parents to have.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope! There might be some things you could propose to make your parents more comfortable and give you a chance to be social online. Maybe together you could check out the Family Online Safety Institute. They’ve got some great guidelines and offer a sample contract that you and your parents could sign together so there are rules in place that everyone understands. Or you could make your own guidelines! Here are some things you might suggest—I bet your parents would be super impressed if you bring them up yourself:

  1. On any acceptable social network you sign up for, your parents should be your first friend. This will allow them to keep an eye on your interactions with others. If there’s anything you wouldn’t be comfortable having your parents read, you probably shouldn’t be posting it on social media.
  2. Go over the account settings together and be sure your accounts are always set to the strictest privacy settings and are only visible to friends you’ve approved together.
  3. Use filtering software like Net Nanny or PureSight PC, which would let your parents keep an eye on your social media activity without hovering over your shoulder.
  4. Keep your computer in a central location. Your parents will worry more if you’re doing all your social media activity alone in your room. If the computer is in the kitchen or living room, they’ll worry less.
  5. Only use social networks during certain hours, or after homework is completed.

Finally, even if your parents aren’t comfortable with sites like Instagram or Facebook, there are also some kid-friendly places to be social online! For one thing, this very Dork Diaries website has lots of room in the comments for interaction and if you hang around, you’ll start to get to know people. And you’ll all have in common that you love Dork Diaries! There are also apps like GeckoLife and PopJam, which are designed for kids.

If your parents are still not comfortable with you on any social network sites, that’s frustrating. But it won’t be forever. Hang in there! 🙂

What do you guys think? What advice do you have for Social Media Misery? Tell us in the comments!