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How can I best advise my DD on dealing with social cliques and social media at secondary school?

(107 Posts)
OccidentalPurist Sun 31-Mar-19 00:35:41

This is more an Am I being unreasonably concerned (and sorry for the long post!).

When my DD left junior for secondary last September she was a very happy, bright, creative and slightly eccentric girl with a lot of friends. Until recently I’d got the impression that things were continuing as normal at secondary school, but I had a rather worrying conversation with her today.

Since starting the Spring term she has become rather pale, grumpy and emotional. Me and my DH initially put it down to hormones, but today she (and her best friend) really opened up about the pressure they feel under to be popular at school and, in particular, on Instagram. It really threw me and I’m worried that this is only going to get worse.

My DD is in a class with her best friend from junior school, but there is a large, dominant group of girls there from another school, who seem to lord it over the rest of them and whom everyone seems to want approval from, including the boys. This on its own I could offer advice on, as I remember it happening at times in my school, but now it comes with a whole other strata of pressure from Instagram as well.

My DD and her friend follow these girls on Instagram and they have three times the followers my DD has and get hundreds more likes and many comments etc. Just writing this is making me think how ridiculous it is, as it’s not real life, but I’m not a 12 year old girl in 2019 and I really don’t think telling her to just come off Instagram is the answer, as she would be known as that girl who’s no longer on Instagram etc.

My maim worry is that, until now, my DD was the sort of person who was so above this sort of rubbish, but that it’s just so pervasive and overwhelming at secondary level that she’s going to end up being some sort of compromised and watered down version of herself just so she can ‘fit in’, in real life and on social media.

Instagram is such a recent phenomenon and I just wondered if there were any mums out there whose DDs were currently navigating it or who had ‘come out the other side’ who could perhaps offer me some advice, reassurance or anecdotes I could pass on to my DD!

SadSackStruggling Sun 31-Mar-19 00:43:26

Watching with interest.
Sorry I can't offer any advice at all. We're currently going through a very similar situation.
One thing we have done is to not let DD have her phone at all times and to put social media time restrictions on.
In primary she and her brother were allowed a couple of hours of gaming time per week. We've insisted on similar restrictions with her phone so she isn't looking at Instagram constantly.

Having said that, she too is struggling with wanting the popularity and attention that some of the others have.

MandyFl0ss Sun 31-Mar-19 02:24:43

Also watching with interest. I feel that handing phones over when they get home from school, then maybe checking an hour later for 10 minutes max, and that's it until the morning is one way to monitor what's going on as the kids' mood can change dramatically depending on what they see on instagram.

agnurse Sun 31-Mar-19 06:14:08

If it's going to be a problem you can definitely restrict her access.

Instagram is not essential to life. If it's creating problems, maybe she doesn't need a smartphone.

Headinabook85 Sun 31-Mar-19 06:57:19

Watching with interest. I am a secondary teacher and have nothing new to add. It's so sad!

One hundred percent agree with PP on setting limits on phone use and no phones in bedrooms overnight.

MsTSwift Sun 31-Mar-19 07:04:29

Bless her. All you can do is try to build her confidence in herself and remove phone as often as you can certainly from 8pm every night. Mine is year 8 and seems to be happy isn’t in the Uber popular group but the next clique down of normal girls seems happy. It’s a girls school so no boys to show off to though don’t know if that’s better or worse. Frankly early secondary is tough for most people remember myself

cloudymelonade Sun 31-Mar-19 07:08:33

Not a mum of teenagers but I work with young girls around that age and find they do often let me in on a little more than they would their parents.

Unfortunately... there isn't a lot you can do about it other than grin and bear it and hope that your DD is confident and clever enough to be able to navigate what is right and what is wrong.

A couple of things that might help though from experience-
What exactly is it that she is feeling the pressure of? Help her to 'curate' her Instagram feed so that it's not just full of things that make her feel bad.
For example, if her whole insta feed is skinny models and celebrities with airbrushed photos, she may be feeling bad about her looks. Find some cool plus size bloggers like Callie Thorpe or Danielle Vanier and suggest she follows them.

I've also found through work that the kids who are part of some kind of quite full on hobby like a theatre group or sports team that practise often seem to be a lot less intensely involved in social media, they're more bothered about using it to communicate with their club friends.

& if it makes you feel any better, 'social media cleanses' or 'detoxes' or 'self care breaks' are very fashionable at the minute! I'm noticing even the younger ones seem to be doing it to fit in with what all the celebs are doing

MsTSwift Sun 31-Mar-19 07:30:58

The sport thing is great advice dd plays a team sport and loves it an activity you enjoy “takes you out of yourself” and builds confidence. Plus in her case she’s met another group of friends - the private school set who are friendly and inclusive but their instagrams are mental we have a giggle about the numerous 5 star holidays to Dubai India and New York !

Mosschopz Sun 31-Mar-19 07:40:32

I’m a pastoral senior leader in a high school and have seen the problems with SM increase in Year 7/8 in recent years. Instagram, Tik Tok and Snapchat seem to be the main platforms for unpleasantness - particularly between girls. They can’t handle it at this age and I think the fact we see loads of issues in the early High School years and virtually none by Year 9 underlined the need for the ‘over 13’ controls that most SM have.

We invited the worst offenders in, discussed the issues of vulnerability with parents and got the girls to delete the app from their phones. Of course it’s a symbolic gesture but after we’d discussed bullying, stress, sleeplessness and the potential for grooming, both parent and child were happy to engage and stay off SM until 13.

SlaaartyBaaardFaaast Sun 31-Mar-19 07:46:42

I am watching with interest, too. Have an 11 yr old about to start secondary. He has a phone and has only just been given minutes, data, etc. The rest of his yr 6 class have had this for at least a yr... we held back until now. However, I have set up multiple parent control/restrictions on it... just as we do all other electronic media. We have a great app on it called Qustudio. This has enabled me to block all social media. Firstly, the law is age 13 and secondly, its a safety net until that time comes. We also have time restrictions set of 1 hr max usage per day. He also has to hand it over at 6:30pm each night and cannot ever take it into his bedroom alone. I am very strict about these things but we do live in a demanding era of peer pressure from so many sources.

I am interested to hear how we handle the whole 'likes, comments' and maybe even bullying side of social media before the time comes. He - like most tweenagers/teens - is keen for approval and to 'fit in'.

Lots of luck OP flowers

GnomeDePlume Sun 31-Mar-19 07:50:25

I second the suggestion of another interest outside school and have also recommended it to others.

For my DDs it was the local authority music school. Lots of different things to try from choirs, different instruments to a rock school.

For my DS it was Army Cadets.

What this gave them was a different group of friends. Also we found these groups really 'got' young people and didnt tolerate bullying.

Poppyputthekettleon Sun 31-Mar-19 07:52:29

She doesn't have to delete her account but I would suggest you suggest to her that she has a break from it and uninstalling the app from her phone for a trial period so she can see if she is happier for not being on it. There are loads of articles and blog posts about people quitting Instagram and feeling happier for it get her to read these. I myself as a grown woman found I was competing for popularity on Instagram and chasing likes etc. I'm so much more content now I dont have the app. By not deleting but just not uploading anymore she's not the girl who isn't on Instagram she's the girl who is too busy in real life to have time to post on Instagram.

Hamsterdancer Sun 31-Mar-19 07:54:25

My dd had this problem and like others have said I made sure she had limited screen time. She got to a point with it she started self harming and her behaviour was awful to the point I took her phone away for a few weeks and gave her my old brick for when she was out.

She has now in year 9 decided (without any prompts from me I use sm) decided lifes to short for social media and took herself off it last year and hasn't looked back. The change in her is amazing. She actually seems to have friends now and has got very into art. I did get lots of calls from worried children that something had happened to her as she didn't announce she was giving it up or even tell me she just deleted it. Her close friends text or call her now and the most she uses her phone for is music and YouTube.

Shes a rare case I think though she says only one other person in her year is the same. So personally limiting phone use is probably more useful which is what will happen when my other two move up to the 7.

BoobiesToTheRescue Sun 31-Mar-19 07:59:32

I have a son the same age.
Year 7 is fucking brutal. The stuff we are going through right now. My poor pfb.

Thankfully he doesn't have Instagram. He screwed that up good and proper when he accidentally made my phone number public and I hit the roof, he will not be trusted with Instagram again until he's in his 50's.

That doesn't stop the cliques and issues at school though, there's still lads who think they are hard and want to challenge my son.

My son is very tall and going out with a girl in the year above and I think these lads feel like they need to bring him down a peg.
It's horrible and a daily battle and I worry about him all the time. There's been tears and fears.

I wish I could advise you. ☹️

MrPickles73 Sun 31-Mar-19 08:07:36

Our DS is 5. One of the nursery teachers who has 2 sons In their 20s said make sure he has a good hobby. It will help him through the teenage years. Other people have mentioned this above.
One of the kids in my 8 year Olds class now has a phone. Arrg.

floribunda18 Sun 31-Mar-19 08:14:05

What other activities does she do? She needs to get out more so that life isn't all only school and social media. It puts things into perspective.

Everyone has friendship and confidence issues at secondary school, it's part of growing up and becoming more independent.

TheHumbleHawthorn Sun 31-Mar-19 08:22:43

Unfortunately... there isn't a lot you can do about it other than grin and bear it and hope that your DD is confident and clever enough to be able to navigate what is right and what is wrong

I disagree - I think it's our duty as parents to show our children how to be confident and guide them into deciding what's right and wrong.

DD (14) and I have had many chats about how great the internet is - she loves make-up tutorials on YouTube! - but also how downright daft or harmful it can be.

We talk about why would you need to get your sense of self-worth from the number of likes people give you? Don't give them that power!

If you are going to a party, don't post a pouty full length photo hoping people will say you're gorg or peng - get your self worth from your reflection! Don't give others the opportunity to post "your (sic) ugly"

DD was hurt a couple of times when she saw on Snapchat that friends had done things without her. I empathised and it's led to discussions about the ever changing nature of friendships and dealing with our feelings (I'm still working on that one as an adult smile)

exLtEveDallas Sun 31-Mar-19 08:26:32

DD has had an Instagram account since Y6. It has always been linked to my email so I have full access. At the start she had limited time on it and I always encouraged her to post photos of 'things' rather than herself (the dog, sunsets, 'arty' trees/flowers etc). When she moved to Y7 she was appalled at how many selfies and provocative poses her friends posted and remains the same now in Y9. She gets a lot of comments on the most simple of pics.

She self regulates now and whilst her screen time has grown, her posts haven't changed (I've just looked now and in the last few weeks she's only posted one photo of herself with our dog).

She's had a few 'near misses' with nasty kids, but has immediately disengaged and blocked that person - no second chances with DD! She's had a lot of self doubt, the same as any teen girl I expect, but I've always dealt with it with gentle teasing and laughing at the perfect duck faces, the impossible filtering and the posting for likes. She only posts nice comments herself, even to kids who have been horrible to her (in fact in some cases she'll purposely seek them out and post a "Gorjus hun" (I know, shoot me...) to deflect - it's hard to be nasty when someone is publicly being nice to you.

She's in 3 after school sports clubs which helps I think - it's hard to be "on fleek" when you are hot and sweaty.

But don't dismiss the power of hormones for moods. It won't be all about the SM. You can set a clock by DD's mood - what is the end of the world today won't even be considered a week later.

TheHumbleHawthorn Sun 31-Mar-19 08:28:48

I agree how important an out of school hobby is for teens. DD trains and competes with her sports team but there is still a lot of SM activity between her team mates - it really is inescapable!

Theworldisfullofgs Sun 31-Mar-19 08:35:46

My dd had a horrible time in year 8. She was bullied horribly particularly via Instagram. It's good your dd is talking to you.
Keep her talking.
What helped. Getting a hobby that had nothing to do with school.
Really keeping an eye on Instagram- she came off it for a little while, think she deleted her account.
We also talked about what she wanted for the future - how gor these girls this is the peak of their lives and she had a choice of letting by his define her or getting on with shaping her future. She also had a couple of aunts who were happy to listen. Sometimes it was helpful having someone who wasnt her mum. School helped too.

She came out the other side. In the long run it probably did her a favour. She realised how shallow it all was and worked really hard and has got on with her life. It was really worrying at the time and all you can do is really is keep talking and help your dd gain perspective on it.

NoTNoShade Sun 31-Mar-19 08:38:22

I also agree with activities out of school being really important. Last week, my dd went to play football tournament at another secondary and saw about five girls she knew from her out of school activities.

I also think it's good to expand their worlds. Go to other cities. Go to galleries, sculpture parks. Go to comic-con! Show her that the world is bigger than that group of girls.

SmallFastPenguin Sun 31-Mar-19 08:39:24

My dd is quite shy in general but has lovely friends, she is better socially than megrin I asked her how she does it once and she said if someone makes her feel a bit uncomfortable even though they are seemingly nice she doesn't try to make friends, only with people she feels relaxed and can be herself with.
On SM she just likes to have an instagram account to see what others are posting and chat with friends in a group, but its under a false name and she never posts anything. I didn't make her do that she is just very private, but it does keep her safe from bullies.

BedraggledBlitz Sun 31-Mar-19 08:44:20

This is awful. My son is only 4 so I'm not there yet. But I know as a 40 year old how sm can affect mental health. I deleted my own account. I'm listening to the good advice here.

Best wishes OP

Ratatouille76 Sun 31-Mar-19 08:46:50

Oh God. My very small dd will be starting year 7 in September. The secondary she is going to is massive, shes currently at a tiny village primary. She has a phone but has no interest in Instagram and thinks its ridiculous but Im sure that will change. I'm dreading year 7 she's so happy at the moment.

Ratatouille76 Sun 31-Mar-19 08:47:19

Sorry meant she doesn't have Instagram, or tiktok or snapchat.

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