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My Kid Wants to Be "Liked" on Facebook
I'm on Facebook a lot. Like lots of moms, I love posting funny things my kids say, photos of them looking adorable, or even complaints about their behavior. I love reading the comments of my perpetually witty friends and family, but if a particular photo or post doesn't get much attention, I don't think much about it.
My kids -- at 6 and 8 -- are familiar enough with Facebook that a gorgeous meal I've cooked will often get the compliment, "Put it on Facebook, Mom!" So I didn't think it was strange when my son wanted me to post a photo of the awesome cardboard rocket ship he made. I put up the photo, along with a picture of the cardboard contraption my daughter also built. Then for the next few hours, my son kept asking to look at his photo on Facebook and started noticing how many "likes" he was getting. Then he started asking to see his sister's picture, too, and started comparing the number of comments and "likes."
Uh-oh, I thought. He's competing with his sister (nothing new) on Facebook (very new!). This was one of those parenting challenges I could never have imagined a few years ago, but I knew it felt as if we were heading in the wrong direction. I didn't want my son to start seeking validation from random "likes" on Facebook. I wanted him to be proud of the cardboard rocket he built because it's something he took time to make, and he had to think about how to attach the wings and what color to make the fuselage.
First I put a stop to him checking his sister's photo. And then when he was still asking to see how many "likes" he got the next day, I told him no more. He's too young for me to explain the difference between internal and external validation, or how if he starts broadcasting himself on social media, he'll have to build up a tolerance for criticism. Instead, I noted my son's eagerness to compete and perform and resolved to encourage positive outlets for him, like gymnastics and piano. And when it's time for him to get his own Facebook account (or whatever kids are into then), we'll have a more thorough discussion about social media, how it can affect how you feel, and how to treat others online.
In the meantime, I might need to take a look at how often I'm on Facebook around my kids. They could probably use a little more eye contact and a little less of me staring at my phone to see who commented on their latest exploits.
Have you had any unexpected parenting challenges related to tech or social media? How did you handle it? (Also, pleeeease follow me on Twitter -- I want to be "liked," too!)