I started blogging the same year blogging became an option. (Yes, I realize that makes me old.) In the years that followed, social media was popularized, and I slowly joined almost every platform. I didn’t set out to become an influencer. Instead, the title fell into my lap.
Despite how popular mommy influencers are, I’m not that type of influencer. I focus on breast cancer advocacy, as well as being in a multiracial family by adoption, living with type 1 diabetes, and whatever else I feel like. Yes, I am a Jill-of-All-Trades.
A post shared by Rachel Garlinghouse: adoption🤎🤍breast cancer🎀 (@whitesugarbrownsugar)
I have a strong affinity for social media. It’s allowed me to connect with women around the world, share my views, and educate my followers on topics that are dear to me. This isn’t my only gig, as I’m also a freelance writer, own an Etsy shop, and am a speaker and book author.
There’s some serious criticism, trolling, and straight-up hatred thrown my way. Most of my haters are white males who disagree with my politics — ahem, advocacy for women, children, the disabled, and people of color. Even though I don’t respond to commenters, let me indulge you in some of the horrible things people have said to me.
One man said he hopes I get cancer again and die. Another called my children a racist name. One of our family photos was stolen (one I didn’t ever share publicly) and featured in a racist YouTube video. I had a woman message me with a photo of me that she had edited — to look like I had makeup on — in which she made me “look better.” (It was a photo from when I was in active chemotherapy treatment.)
I had a handful of people claim I plagiarized parts of one of my books — with zero evidence — with the goal of decreasing my sales. (I, in fact, had permission from every expert I’d quoted or paraphrased — in writing.) Another person persistently insisted that I was secretly Chinese, but I wouldn’t admit it. (DNA ethnicity testing says otherwise, but OK — and anyway, why does that even matter?) I had another poster leave a comment that she didn’t like my tan lines. Of all things to complain about!
Luckily, I have a thick skin, and I give zero credit to any of these opinions and claims. I also don’t respond to haters, because they’re just looking for a fight, and I refuse to add fuel to their anger fire. They want something and someone to be mad at, and unfortunately, sometimes that’s me and my work.
My experiences have made me realize just how dangerous social media can be. Even with all the precautions I have taken and continue to take, people find a way to try to torment and bully me. I know better than to open obviously-creepy DMs, much less respond to them. My time and energy are precious.
As a mom of four, two of whom are close to or in their teenage years, I’ve made the decision not to let them have social media. Despite that kids much younger than them — some of whom are their peers — freely enjoy many social media platforms, my kids know my rule, and why.
One of the reasons I share with my kids is that they generally feel good about themselves and have a lot going for them in life. They have a loving family and friends, extracurricular activities they enjoy, school, and hobbies. Why distract themselves from these in order to be conditioned to dislike themselves and others, as well as be subject to all the creeps and trolls?
I know that some of you are thinking that there are parental controls, but let’s be real: those are hardly enough. I know others believe that we need to learn to trust our kids. It’s not my kids I don’t trust — it’s strangers on the Internet who don’t have my confidence.
I asked Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in NYC, for her thoughts on the matter. One of the drawbacks of teens using social media is — no surprise — serving as a major distraction from what should be the teen’s obligations, such as homework, chores, and family dinners.
Dr. Hafeez is a mom, as well as a mental health professional, and shares that she’s “very apprehensive of social media,” adding, that she’s “most concerned about its effects on young girls” due to their need for social acceptance and validation. Additionally, she says, social media presents skewed ideas of what is attractive. Hello, filters!
Dr. Hafeez acknowledges that the pandemic was difficult for parents. Many of our kids had screen time privileges that weren’t previously allowed. Now we’re regretting what we said yes to in those days. Is it too late to change our screen and social media boundaries?
My vote is no, but I highly recommend that before we crack down in frustration or use screens as punishment, we call a family meeting. Everyone should be fed, well-rested, and ready to have a calm and constructive conversation. Parents or guardians should come prepared with their firm boundaries, but also leave room for their kids’ opinions and ideas.
My goal as a parent is safety first. Safety isn’t always fun (especially in a teen’s eyes), but since our kids’ brains won’t be fully formed until they’re 25, it is our job to place boundaries and expect them to be followed. A device is a privilege, and it’s also a powerful tool that can be used for good or for harm.
I’d rather be strict with my kids than take on the attitude of anything-goes and risk increasing my child’s risk for anxiety or depression, self-esteem issues, or even suicidal ideation. Children — including teens — can easily be lured into communicating with unsafe strangers or subjected to bullying for their appearance, their opinions, or anything else.
My stance on my teen’s and tweens’ social media usage is not popular. However, all of those teens we know who have it seem to be incredibly addicted, while also tormented, by what they see and feel as a result. Being a teen is hard enough as it is. If I can take delay or remove some of that hardship from my kids’ lives, I’m all in.
These celebrity parents have gotten honest about their rules when it comes to technology.
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