Written by Michelle Icard
Michelle Icard is a Charlotte mom, author, educator, and social leadership strategist. Her site, Michelle in the Middle, creates emotional relief for t(w)eens, parents, and educators by providing clear wisdom and pragmatic tools that ease stress and create connection. Icard is founder of Athena’s Path, and Hero's Pursuit, curriculums that helps kids navigate the tricky middle school social scene.
There has been a lot of online chatter recently about the now infamous Mrs. Hall letter, in which she instructs teenage girls to stop posting sleazy selfies online or otherwise be booted from her family’s online island. (If you haven’t read the original, it’s been changed so the one I link to is not what she first posted.) After Mrs. Hall posted her letter, there were a bunch of responses, including my favorite, which talked about a myriad of ways in which Mrs. Hall was everything from condescending to clueless to misogynistic. For the record, most of the responses I agreed with. But it occurred to me as I was reading the back and forth that we’re all forgetting one very important piece of this complicated puzzle.
While everyone is busy telling each other what pictures kids shouldn’t post on Instagram, no one is telling them how to use Instagram well.
It’s the parenting equivalent of taking your younger child to a playground where all her friends are playing, then saying: “You’re allowed to be here, but it’s really dangerous and what you do here could hurt you, your reputation, and your friendships in the long run. Don’t go down the slide in a skirt. Don’t go on the swings at all. No monkey bars unless you’re being very, very careful. You figure out what that means. Have fun.”
All of these moms and dads crying out “too many selfies!” and “mind your own business!” aren’t helping the kids who are at the playground wondering what to do for fun. In a giant game of Monkey-See, Monkey-Do, kids on Instagram naturally post pictures of what they see most. Yes, selfies. Yes, mountains of shopping bags after a trip to the mall. Yes, provocative poses. They just need a little inspiration to think more broadly. To that end, I offer a new Formula for Instagram Fun that breaks down how your kid can create a more well-rounded online image.
We can do better. The conversations we have with our kids about online responsibility can’t begin and end with a list of everything they’re not supposed to do. Let’s inspire them and start a major shift in the way they see and project themselves online. If you have a kid on Instagram, please share the info graphics below and start a conversation about being more than a #selfie. Visit my Instagram page for a series of these images you and your kids can share to join the revolution. Have fun!