Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What You Dont Know about Your Tweens Instagram Popularity

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What You Dont Know about Your Tweens Instagram Popularity

Article excerpt

I follow a middle school Instagram star.

Shes the daughter of one of my oldest friends, and nearly every picture she posts gets dozens and dozens of likes and comments. She has about 500 followers and has posted hundreds of adorable pictures of herself and her friends, who likely would never end up on a cyberbullying list like the Ladues Ugliest account that caught school officials and parents attention last week. (That account user posted pictures of people deemed unattractive.)

Instagram is where your tween hangs out. Its essentially a photo- based social network, like Facebook and Twitter, but it is accessed as an app downloaded on an iTouch, iPad or smartphone. Technically, a user has to be 13 to download and use it according to the sites regulations, but those rules havent stopped many tweens from signing up.

I started following the accounts of my close friends children, largely to keep tabs and alert their parents if I saw something questionable. Some of their children blocked me. (The whole point is to keep grown-ups away, right?) Others, as young as 6 years old, enthusiastically began liking my own pictures, which also made me feel a little odd. How did I end up with this strange digital interaction with a first-grader?

Instagram is not just a glorified camera with filters to make pretty photos and collages. For many tweens, its a way around parents who monitor or restrict accounts on Facebook but arent as familiar with Instagram. Its a way to post sexy self-portraits, flirt, keep an eye on others and feel popular.

Children about to enter those turbulent teen years have always sought secret places to explore their evolving identities. The trouble with Instagram is that this hidden space is completely public. How many 10- or 12-year-olds actually have 200-300 friends? What child should publicize a stream of photos documenting her life and thoughts for hundreds of others? Perhaps because so many adults have adopted socializing in this manner, its considered acceptable for children.

But those arent friends. Thats an audience.

Are we comfortable letting our children explore their developing sense of self, their sexuality and friendships in a photographic record in front of an audience? …

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