Mobile phones have almost become a school item necessity for 10 -14 year old children; along with a pencil case, lunch box and a rain coat. Without a doubt, they provide parents with the re-assurance that we can be in contact with our children any time that is needed.
But the downside of mobile phones is the easy access to social networking applications such as Instagram. IPads and iPods are also a means for downloading social networking applications and their popularity amongst children is growing at a rapid rate.
Instagram is a mobile photo editor where you can create different effects on photos you have taken with the filter options available. You might like to go brighter, add a vintage hue, make it black and white, add a border or blur out the background. The end result can be quite impressive and with the addition of the “sharing” button, you can allow other people or “followers” to like and comment on your pictures too.
Many adults use Instagram to follow friends’ pictures and other users’ content that they may be interested in. It can provide lots of fun, help us keep in touch with friends and provide creative inspiration from others’ work. Unfortunately, the lure of Instagram for children as a social networking tool can far outweigh the appeal of its creative strongpoints.
Unlike Facebook, which is generally acknowledged as being unsuitable for tween aged children, Instagram seems to be considered socially acceptable for use by children as young as 9 or 10 years old.
According to Instagram’s terms and conditions, which you can find here, all users must be 13 years of age in order to use the site. Yet, many younger children are using it without their parents’ knowledge. This is possible either because children know their parents’ password for downloading and updating apps, have their own password, or perhaps no password is in place at all.
If your child has access to Instagram, here are five things you must know to keep them safe:
1. Make sure the privacy settings are on
By default, Instagram allows anyone to follow, see, like and comment on your pictures, unless you specifically turn the privacy settings on. You can do this at any stage after set up and I strongly recommend you check this on your child’s device. Once activated, anyone wanting to follow your child on Instagram, will have to ask their permission first.
2. Stipulate the type of photos you allow to be posted – nothing indecent!
Tell your child that if they wouldn’t print the photo and send it to their grandmother – don’t post it! Without a doubt, “selfies” are the most popular style of photo to post amongst tweens and teenagers. Sadly, there are too many photos circulating of children either dressed inappropriately or making inappropriate gestures. We need to continually teach children that popularity does not come from having the most likes for their latest swimsuit shot. Instead, encourage them to post a picture of something that tells a story of how they view the world. Use the in-built filters, be creative, capture a moment.
There is also a very important icon on the side of each person’s post on Instagram – it is symbolised by three small horizontal dots. This is where you can mark a photo as inappropriate, and I strongly encourage you to educate your children about this button. If they feel uncomfortable about anything they see on Instagram, they are to use this button, which is an anonymous reporting system. Instagram will review and take the post down immediately. Educating your children about the use of this icon will encourage your child to be respectful and safe on Instagram.
3. It’s not about numbers – no shout-outs!
Like any social networking tool, tweens and teenagers cannot help but get caught up in the number of friends, followers or likes they have. This can lead to a false feeling of self-worth. The latest phenomenon is “Shout-Outs”, where a screenshot of a person’s profile is taken (sometimes this person isn’t even known to your child) and then posted with the comment “follow this person”.
Unless this person gives your child a very good (and appropriate) reason to follow them, then your child is to ignore the request. Children should not be sharing their lives with people they do not know. Make this very clear to them.
4. Start your own Instagram account and get involved
Download the app and stipulate that you must be allowed to follow them and they you. You can see which pictures your child has liked and commented on, and have a better understanding of what is being posted. They, in turn, can see by your example the correct way to use this app.
Having your child sign a mobile phone contract, like the example below is also a great idea. This shows that with the privilege of having electronic devices comes responsibility. Breaching the conditions of the contract will result in their access to their device being revoked.
* Modified from About.com
5. Be mindful of comments you make
The same rules apply to emails, text and social media; be careful of words that are typed in as comments, as they can easily be perceived incorrectly. Instagram is a public domain, once a comment is typed, it is visible for anyone to see and will automatically be attributable to your child’s name. The old saying “it’s your word against mine” doesn’t exist in the world of social media, it is there for all to see in black and white.
Encourage comments to be minimal, positive, and kind; never putting people down or make fun of their photos. And, of course, NEVER make sexual comments or inferences.
A good way to remember our responsibilities when it comes to commenting is to THINK:
And make it clear that if your children witness bullying that they are to tell an adult immediately.
Instagram is a means of sharing parts of your life, through photos, with the people who really care about and value you. Following these guidelines will help your Tween to be safe and responsible on this app whilst enjoying the creativity that can come from photography.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with Instagram. What do you love about it? Do you let your kids use it? Any other discussion points?
The first day of December always brings joy and happiness to our household, as we put up the advent calendar and count the sleeps down to Christmas Day.
I am not sure whether it is the anticipation of good things to come or whether the mere presence of the advent calendar, and knowing that little surprises are inside, that creates that overwhelming sense of excitement in adults and children alike.
In my advent calendar excitement, I was browsing through Pinterest and came across this great little idea – it’s an Advent Christmas Bucket. What I loved most about the idea is that each parcel does not necessarily need to be filled with chocolates, lollies or other expensive treats, they can also be filled with things that are already owned, pre-used, made or activities to do.
For the gifts:
1. Christmas movies (could be pre-owned, borrowed or new)
2. Christmas themed books (could be pre-owned, borrowed or new)
3. Christmas craft (eg cards and envelopes, glitter or paints to make cards for friends)
4. Personalised Christmas decoration for the Christmas tree (homemade or new)
5. Gingerbread House Kit (new)
For the experiences:
1. Decorate the Christmas tree
2. Go out and look at Christmas lights in the local neighbourhood
3. Invite a friend for dinner or have a day off chores
4. Sort through old toys and take them to a homeless shelter
5. Make hot chocolate and look through family photo albums.
Now for the crafty part of this project. You can let your inner creative flair lose and come up with an imaginative way to display your advent calendar. Here are some beautiful examples I have found. For more examples and references to images, take a look at my Pinterest Christmas Board.
Traditionally advent calendars last for the whole of December, but if you haven’t got your head around the Christmas cheer as yet, don’t panic – just start your calendar when you are ready. As long as it is before Christmas of course. I am really looking forward to creating something unique to my family. Hope you enjoy this project also. Good luck!
Are you continually finding yourself on a roller coaster of emotions these days? I know I am, trying to juggle four children and a husband, running an online business and managing relationships outside the home. It seems everyone has their own agenda and the sense of community and “belonging” to a network of like-minded supportive people is lacking.
What makes this revelation even more frustrating, is that our children are learning that a so called “normal” lifestyle is looking after number one, sharing little time with their elders in the community and basically living their lives in fast-forward.
So much can be gained by SLOWING things down and taking the time to share our knowledge with the next generation – our children.
A traditional Lebanese lunch and catch-up with an old friend:
My family was privileged enough to catch up with one of my best friends from University and her Lebanese family on the weekend. To say I was completely in awe and envious of their weekly catch-ups for lunch is a complete understatement.
There we sat in their modest backyard, surrounded by an organic herb and vegetable garden – containing everything needed to make traditional Lebanese food like tabouli and stuffed vine leaves. Everyone in the family had their role to play – three generations of them.
There was the homemade wood BBQ which my friend’s Mum uses for smoking the eggplant to make the baba ghanoush, the charcoal BBQ where her Dad stands, devoting all his attention to the lamb skewers, onions and homemade garlic flat bread. Coming from the kitchen inside were plates of pre-prepared kibbeh, sambovsek, hummus and garlic dip. Upon arriving to the house, my friend and her Mum were adding the finishing touches to the tabouli – together they discussed the oil, lemon and salt required to make the perfect dressing.
Sitting at the family table for their Sunday lunch was a complete honour for my family and I. Knowing the effort that had gone in to preparing every item of food on the table and the wealth of knowledge that had been passed down from the first generation, right through to the third, was quite magical.
Camping? Why would you do that?
I went camping twice in the school holidays – yes twice! Despite most people thinking I am absolutely crazy and questioning why I would do that, it would have to be the best holiday experience you could have with your children.
We really did manage to slow things down – well once the setting up and packing up was out of the way. Setting up is always fun and exciting for everyone, packing up – a little less exciting!
Both trips were in the bush, which meant the children had wide open spaces to roam and explore. All our meals were cooked on an open fire and if anyone has done this before, it takes time and patience. Something we all get frustrated with at first, but after a while you come to understand how much more wonderful the food actually tastes because of the time and effort put in to creating it.
Of course marshmallows were toasted on a stick, but only after the children go hunting for an hour to find THE perfect stick for toasting. Imaginations run wild once all technological devices are switched off and the only entertainment you can offer your children is time and presence. This also allows the adults to get in touch with their inner child and the results can be quite creative. Have a look at the blown-up tyres which were rafted down the creek at Turon Gates. Words cannot describe how much fun was had by all with this experience.
On both of the camping trips we shared with our children, close friends and their children, we felt like we were part of something – in a sense, it was our own small community. Meals were planned, prepared and shared together in a communal area. We as parents, without even realising it, we’re role modelling basic survival skills to our children and imparting knowledge that can only be gained in real life, not by watching tv shows or absorbing themselves in technology.
Form your own communities:
I strongly encourage all of you, in some way, to SLOW things down, enjoy the simple things, impart your knowledge and role model to your children – in essence, you will be creating and fostering your own small community. Your children will benefit greatly from the time spent with them. They will have the opportunity to model off positive behaviours, rather than the inappropriate one’s that you have no control over.
You may even want to go one extra step and remind your children that you only get out of life what you put into it, including relationships. Whether it be their family, friends or peers in their own communities, teach them to look out for others and help will always be there for them when needed. That’s a supportive community and we all deserve it!
This little video filmed by Kinfolk magazine reminds me a little of our experience in making damper on our camping trip. Click through to ‘films’ and then ‘Campfire Twist Bread’ and have a look and enjoy the slow pace of creating something from scratch.