Before I let you read this very real and relatable story about the horrors of social media and children…I want to provide a little background. I rarely, if ever, take guest posts. It’s hard to relinquish control when you pour blood sweat and A LOT of tears into creating and sharing personal content on a site you built with you own hands and heart.
But this week, I was having a conversation with a dear friend who is also a mom to two boys. They are older than my kids and one is officially in that phase when they are “allowed” to have their own social media accounts. Candace, my friend, is a woman and mom I not only relate to in so many ways because we have similar personalities. But I respect her immensely and think she has incredible insight and judgment in life and as a parent.
Candace was so moved by recent events in her own home related to a high-profile social media scandal that just occurred with a YouTube star followed my MANY kids, probably even yours. She was so impacted that she chose to write about it and I am HONORED to share it here on my site because I think it’s something important that there needs to be ongoing dialogue about.
My older daughter is just entering the “watching things on YouTube” phase and I’m not going to lie, it scares the shit out of me because the truth is, we can’t see every second of every thing they are watching and there are sick people out there who have ways of sliding inappropriate content into their little hands. Then you have a whole different level of scum, like the guy at the center of the scandal Candace writes about.
This is NOT about if children should be allowed to have their own social media accounts and at what age. This is NOT a topic to start a debate. Everyone is allowed to parent the way they see fit, so stay in your lane. But…here’s the reality– social media is not going anywhere and it’s impact is only going to grow, so as parents we need to discuss these things and maintain a dialogue. It takes a fucking village, people. Please read, share, comment and process Candace’s words. They are important to ALL of us.
We’re Supposed to Singlehandedly Police the Internet, Too?
We’re not even 72 hours into this New Year and I’ve already been fuming for 24 of them. Not a great start. And no, it’s not because of #MAGA or #MeToo – although those are both infuriating on a daily basis. It’s because on top of running my business, keeping two small people alive and safe, marriage (that’s a verb), and carrying basically 100% of the mental load, I just got slapped in the face with a brand new, very critical yet unwanted job: Mom Internet Police.
Here’s the truth. I’m not on social media much personally, but it is part of my paying job for clients so I see enough to be dangerous. I’ve also amped up my Instagram antennae in the last year since we gave our now-11-year-old son permission to have an account. Up until yesterday things had gone pretty smoothly with that save for a couple of hiccups (“You’re following HOW many accounts?! Yeah, you’re gonna need to cut that down by about 1,000.”) But we’re learning on the job with this, right?
So in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, New Year’s Eve day, preparing for a fun night ahead, it was odd to find our son hysterically crying in his room. We chatted, he calmed down and we went on to ring in the New Year with home fireworks and 2018-shaped glitter glasses. But about 1 am (bedtime, finally!) it started again. And again on Monday into the late hours of the night. We chalked it up to vacation being over, school beginning again the next day, regular run-of-the-mill anxiety. Which, for most kids, is pretty normal. And this kid happens to be a little on the sensitive side. Ok, fine. Tomorrow’s another day.
Then, yesterday afternoon, I stumbled onto the smoking gun. And, guess what? It was shaped like an idiotic “Internet famous” (not ACTUAL famous) YouTuber. I don’t even want to type this scumbag’s name because it makes my mommy blood boil. But if you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the gist. Right when I saw this, I knew in my gut that THIS, this GARBAGE, is what had sent my house into a three-day tweenage shitstorm.
All of this, of course, then necessitated a “family meeting,” a frank discussion to basically force an 11-year-old to admit he consumed terribly upsetting content and had been beside himself as a result. Oh, and by the way, it’s NOT HIS FAULT! Which we made sure to explain. We know he didn’t go looking to see a dead body hanging from a tree! We know he didn’t seek out horrifying gore that was meant to instill fear while also disrespecting some poor family’s private pain. No, he simply opened his Instagram, which he is allowed to do, and unwittingly witnessed something terrible in an auto-play video in his feed, posted by someone whom we would not have filtered out with parental controls.
That last thought right there, that’s the biggest problem. Even with controls in place, we would NOT have disallowed these people or their content to come into our son’s view. These dubiously famous YouTubers exist because people like us allow our tweenagers to consume their idiotic (yet not harmful) content, and buy their nothing special (but not offensive) “merch.” We, the well-meaning, doing-the-best-we-can, trying-to-raise-happy-well-adjusted-kids parents are paying that bill.
And now, we are also paying the price.
But I can’t. It’s too steep. It’s a hard enough mission to get these kids dressed, fed, to/from school, tutors, music lessons, sports practices, play dates, to sleep at a decent hour, ensure their safety, support their dreams, keep them grounded, and dry their tears – so many tears – without having to also watch, listen to, and read every single thing they consume before they consume it. It’s impossible. And I won’t do it.
Last night we cut that toxic person and his whole squad of Internet morons off from our family. We will not be on the receiving end of that kind of violation – that negative, disrespectful, irresponsible stupidity. And you should cut it off, too. (You, also, @YouTube). We the parents hold the power here. We control the purse strings. And this person deserves for us to band together in the name of protecting our kids to make his self-created fictional empire evaporate before his very eyes. There’s big power in numbers, we are stronger together. This is a call to arms, people. Who’s with me?
And, while we’re at it, can someone tell me how we’re supposed to add “singlehandedly police the whole Internet” to our list of responsibilities?
Candace Sheitelman is a mom of two boys, wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter, business owner, marketer, writer, and doer of all the things. She loves good food, good friends, good times, and occasionally burning stuff in a good full moon fire ceremony. She can be reached by email and on Facebook and Instagram.