Last night, I watched my girls board a plane without me for the first time. And I forgot to tell Facebook.

As my girls excitedly traipsed across the dark, windblown tarmac to the waiting plane, I realized I had not snapped a photo to document the event. Oops.

I “should” have posted this to Facebook and Instagram. After all, flying unaccompanied is a big step. They’re growing up. It’s the type of thing I should share with the world, isn’t it?

As I waited for the plane to take off, I read how a mommy blogger’s thoughts on her kid’s social media performance sparked outrage.

This mom makes her living off Instagram. She was bothered that one of her kiddos performs poorly on Instagram. He never gets as many likes as her other children. Maybe it’s his photography? He hasn’t figured out the algorithm?

Admitting her concern on social media unleashed a torrent of shaming responses. How could she judge her child based on his social media performance? What a terrible mother she must be!

A mom’s fear that a shortage of Instagram “Likes” is a problem for her kid shows clearly it is a problem for her. As the author concludes, perhaps her honesty is a warning to all of us.

Whose “Likes” Matter?

Photo credit: rawpixel on Unsplash

We know it shouldn’t matter if a distant acquaintance finds us or our kids entertaining. Yet approval is approval, whatever the source. Pay attention to where you seek approval.

Is your own confidence bolstered by the “likes” your baby photos inspire?

Do you spend more time documenting your toddler’s play than sitting and playing with her?

Does the ding of a new message take priority over the face-to-face conversation you are having?

If you answered yes to these questions, consider trying one of these strategies, maybe with your kids.

Beware of letting people you hardly know dictate your sense of self-worth.

Beware the messages you’re sending your kids. If you’re checking your “like” count every half hour, don’t be surprised when your kid looks to their phone for validation.

“Likes” Do Not Grow Self-Confidence

Socially, middle school is shaky, ever-shifting sand.

Self-confidence needs to be grounded in something solid. Something true. And that is NOT social media.

Photo by Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash

“Like” counts are as up and down as a roller coaster. They are exciting and they can make your kid sick.

Kids need to know they matter because God made them and loves them and says they matter. They are secure because their family is there for them, not because they had a high “Like” count today.

A few real friends are better than hundreds of “Likes”. Kids need to know, and be reminded of whose approval matters. (It’s not everyone’s!)

The Cost of Dopamine Hits

When you crack a joke and your friends laugh, you feel good. Cool. Confident. Your dopamine level rises. When my little boys make people laugh, they want to do it again. And again. They want another reaction. What starts out as cute quickly becomes obnoxious and annoying.

Bigger kids seek those reactions through social media. More “likes” bring more dopamine. They feel good and want more. Like my three-year-old, they don’t know when to stop. Some start posting reaction-worthy content at the expense of their peers.

Bypassing Developing Brains

Developing brains more quickly become addicted to technology. This is why many in the tech industry limit their kids’ access to screens and delay smartphone use until much later than the national average.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Too much time in a 2-D world of sights and sounds hinders a child’s full brain development. Neural networks are still forming through the teen years, to age 20. All the five senses are needed for full development.

Touchscreens don’t require manual dexterity, full body movement, smell, taste, or touch. Author and researcher Michael Gurian asserts that when these senses are bypassed too often, the associated neural networks fail to connect correctly.

For brain development and calmer kids, baking cookies is better than a cooking app. Building with blocks is better than Minecraft. Playing in the snow is better than watching Christmas movies.

Documenting or Just Being

Perhaps I should have captured the about-to-board-the-plane moment. The important people know about the flight — grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles. They know the kids are entering new stages of independence.

I love that two sisters get to share this trip and make memories together. And some of those memories are theirs alone.

Maybe we’ll post some highlights later, but for now, they get to enjoy their flight, and their weekend, without a “like” counter running. And I’m good with that.

Colleen’s four kids learned to walk on three different continents. She knows transitions can be overwhelming and writes to help others enjoy the journey and engage in community. Wherever they call home. Visit Colleen at ColleenHiggs.com.
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Colleen’s four kids learned to walk on three different continents. She knows transitions can be overwhelming and writes to help others enjoy the journey and engage in community. Wherever they call home. Visit Colleen at ColleenHiggs.com.

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