Sorry, But I'm Not Accepting Your 9-Year-Old's Friend Request

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
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Recently, I had a conversation with a friend in which she divulged to me that her 10-year-old son has an Instagram account. Because she and I usually see eye to eye on most parenting decisions, I was surprised. When I asked her about it, she explained that, for her son, she has rules and privacy settings in place to protect him. She told me she’s had conversations about appropriate photos and internet safety. She said she trusts him and wants him to develop good judgment online.

Sorry, Charlie, but I don’t believe any child under 13 has any business on social media.

There. I said it.

Gone are the days of phone cords snaked into other rooms for privacy and kids actually looking you in the eye instead of at their screens. I get it. Really, I do. As a mother of a tween and a teen, I know how hard it is to be the parent who says no to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and all of the other apps that allow kids to “chat” these days. I’ve had conversations with my kids about online predators, texting etiquette, and making good choices with the advent of YouTube (thank god Snapchat didn’t exist when I was in college). And because my kids aren’t jerks, I know I will be able to trust them online if I ever relent and let them join the social media masses.

I’ve spoken with many parents like my friend who disagree with me and say that I’m being too strict. They tell me that social media with parameters set by parents can be a good teaching tool, a way to monitor your child’s behaviors as they learn the ropes. “Make sure you follow him on Facebook!” they tell me, or “I make sure she follows me on my account so she knows I’m watching.” My friends remind me that my kids are missing out on valuable social experiences and that I should ease up on my restrictions.

Sorry, but NOPE.

As much as I know I can lock down my kids’ accounts and keep their internet sharing private, here’s the thing: I know what I post on my social media accounts, and I don’t want them seeing what I do in my grown-up space on the internet. And I don’t want your 11-year-old to see what I post either, thank you very much. There is no need for my 10-year-old to see those drunk selfies her best friend’s mom took on her trip to Cancun last year or the meme my brother posted that makes a gross joke about poop. She’s too young for Facebook, plain and simple, and since I cannot censor the content that she can search on Instagram, I will continue to say no to an account.

I am a grown-up who loves swear words, inappropriate memes, and filthy humor. I complain about my kids on Facebook. I caption my photos on Instagram with snarky comments and I angry Tweet when I’m annoyed by bad service from a company. I share memes about the Elf on the Shelf, and I could easily ruin the Santa myth for some poor unsuspecting 8-year-old for all the complaining I do at Christmastime about having to play the role the jolly fat guy in a red suit.

I don’t want to have to censor my online behavior so that your kid can scroll through my pictures.

I don’t want to have to accept your kid’s friend request so that I can help you keep tabs on where they are or what they are posting.

And I sure as hell don’t want to notice bad online behavior from your kid and have to tell you about it, because that’s just awkward.

Can we all just please agree that I don’t have to be involved with you and your kids’ social media?

I know I sound like a shrew, and my friends are probably rolling their eyes at me as they read. Frankly, I don’t care. I cannot bear the responsibility of having to watch what I say online so that your precious snowflake will believe in Santa Claus for one more year. I like to use inappropriate language, and I have no intention of stopping just because your kid is using dirty words they learned from my Facebook account at the dinner table. And I need to complain about my kids in a safe, grown-up laden place, so please don’t be offended when I hit “decline” on your kid’s friend request 37 times in a row because they can’t get a clue that Mrs. Burke isn’t interested.

I post pictures of booze and cocktails—lots of them. Sometimes, I’m even a little tipsy in my photos. Do you really want to have to explain why Mrs. Burke is on the countertop wearing a pink boa and singing ’80s songs? On second thought, don’t answer that. And also, don’t lecture me on bad choices and inappropriate online sharing, m’kay? Because my grown-up friends understand and are doing the same things. Well, maybe not the countertop dancing, there’s always that one friend online doing that nonsense, right?

My point is that I have lots of friends, grown-up ones—friends I can be myself with and let my hair down with on social media. I love interacting with my friends online and surviving the trials of parenting on social media with them. I’ve built a business based on oversharing my parenting thoughts, and I’ve had countless conversations with friends whose children have followed my business social media accounts. Every time, I’ve politely reminded my friends about what I post, and if the parent doesn’t remove their child from my account, I wield the admin ban stick like a samurai. Sorry, kids, this ain’t a family show.

I don’t need to interact with school-aged kids any more than I already do in this house, much less online. I may not be able to pee alone, but I can certainly complain about it in the privacy of my Twitter house—and I don’t need your kids watching me when I Tweet my pants.

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