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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!

MsTSwift Sun 31-Mar-19 08:50:57

We banned Instagram but it was not sustainable as all the other parents had given in so dd was the only one not on it she felt left out, would cry and wrote us letters about it so we caved. This is not an easy age to parent. Meet parents with little kids who merrily insist they just won’t allow phones or social media it’s not as simple as that.

Ratatouille76 Sun 31-Mar-19 08:52:19

Yes it's easier when they are little! All my daughters friends have Instagram and she's still not bothered thinks its stupid.

Cozytoesandtoast00 Sun 31-Mar-19 08:53:04

Great advice.
I'm watching with interest as I have a 9 year old and have concerns about this in her future.
I think children need lots of guidance and reassurance and a way of depersonalising themselves from it. SM can be very damaging and support in this area is important.

GreenTulips Sun 31-Mar-19 08:55:42

Not sure what the issue is here?

What is she upset about?

Is it that she doesn’t ‘on paper’ have as much popularity as the other girls?

TheHumbleHawthorn Sun 31-Mar-19 08:57:43

Rat - a large secondary school can be great - provides a much wider pool of friends to choose from.

And please don't be alarmed by what you hear about SM. Most kids are perfectly nice, you just have to help your kids navigate the teenage years like we had to smile

Decormad38 Sun 31-Mar-19 09:03:07

Dd is 13 on Instagram. They don’t use Facebook anymore. Got an older dd 19 who struggled enormously with it all at school. She is at uni now and never responds to any messages and I think that is because she hated it so much at school. Younger dd has noticed other girls being deleted out of pictures by not very nice girls and has shown me. It can be used as a tool for bullying. Plus lots of girls posting party pics but if they are not invited to the party then it’s crushing. Dd seems to be more resilient this year than last. They now have a rule when she meets her friends that all phones go in the middle of the table and they talk with each other and don’t touch their phones.

Springisallaround Sun 31-Mar-19 09:03:13

Mine both had a rocky time in Year 7 finding friends, shifting groups and it wasn't just to do with Insta but just general hormones, friendship problems.

They have had to come to terms though with not being hugely popular- I think in their heads at 11/12 was this idea that the more people you know, and the more you seem cool (or whatever term they use, it isn't cool) then the better your life would be. They've had to work out that having one or two good friends is better than being super-popular on SM. I don't know if you can hurry that learning curve, though, my wise words of wisdom certainly didn't help whilst in the middle of it anyway. Mine don't use SM a huge amount, post the odd photo not of themselves and not all their friends are into it, so whilst they do use message apps and Insta to arrange meet-ups and so on, I wouldn't say that's such a big deal for them- but how to be 'popular', what you look like, if you are a bit different, coping with stupid remarks/low level bullying have all been on the agenda.

Just keep talking, that way you know what's going on and they can also work out their own solutions, getting others involved if needs be.

TeenTimesTwo Sun 31-Mar-19 09:09:59

Probably not going to help too much here, but my y9 isn't on social media, and nor are most of her friends. I think they are way better off. I think social media for young teens can be really damaging, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.
Could she mute it or whatever for 3 weeks and see if she feels better or worse?

MrPickles73 Sun 31-Mar-19 09:14:34

Don't you have to be 13 for an instagram account? I.e. year 9? I would contact the school and ask them to remind the families of the age limit and see if that helps to move them off it.
Also have a chat with the teacher. They must see these issues all the time...

Smartieshavetheanswer Sun 31-Mar-19 09:15:11

DD is 13 but I don't allow social media of any sort. We tried it once when she turned 13 but she became obsessive very quickly and checked her phone constantly. One of her 'likes' she'd received was from a boy who isn't particularly loyal to her in real life and we spoke long and hard about the ridiculousness of the situation. So the account was deleted.

She's now at a point where she's missing it but this is because all her friends have it. I'm resolute though and keep asking her exactly what she's missing.

DD10 doesn't have a phone and won't one until secondary school. No SM for her either.

I'm also a secondary school teacher and see daily the issues SM bring. It is like the Wild West. If you are a parent that doesn't check your
Child's postings and search history, you are very much part of the problem.

We have amazing kids - kids you'd trust with your own children - and then (because of online issues), we keep a peek of what they are up to online and it's shocking.

The adult sexual nature, the violent images, cruelty, hideous language - all for lolz. It's brutal.

If you are a parent who "doesn't need to check little Samantha's account because she's sensible and I trust her" - then you are deluded and in need of parenting classes. Thankfully, all the posters on this thread are fairly responsible, but you'd be shocked at how many seem to not bother.

Smartieshavetheanswer Sun 31-Mar-19 09:23:16

The rise of the internet and social media has monumentally changed the landscape of adolescence. Our children are exposed to far too much too quickly and the just don't have the emotional devices to deal with what they are looking at.

In the last 20 years, metal health issues has soared in the youth. It correlates with the introduction of social media and the internet.

Ratatouille76 Sun 31-Mar-19 09:26:53

I check my daughters phone daily. She does have WhatsApp but that's because she can message and it doesn't eat into her data. She plays helix jump and thats it. I check her search history too. No phone after 8 and it stays downstairs. Think I got the idea for those rules from mumsnet. Shes had messages from friends at half ten at night. They are only 11.

exLtEveDallas Sun 31-Mar-19 09:41:14

When DD first had Insta Ratatouille I was shocked at how late some posts came through - because of course they all pinged on my phone! Kids in Year 6 still posting at 10 and 11 on a school night!

TheHumbleHawthorn Sun 31-Mar-19 10:32:00

If DD didn't have snapchat she'd miss out on arrangements for parties/meeting up.

SM is here to stay and I'd much prefer to help my DD learn to manage it than impose an outright ban.

MrPickles73 Sun 31-Mar-19 11:01:07

I would take the secondary school teacher's advice. If it's not working ban it.

OccidentalPurist Sun 31-Mar-19 13:10:55

I've only just checked in (Mothers Day/clocks changing). Thank you for all the really helpful advice on here - it's invaluable stuff!

Limiting screen time and getting her to start an out of school hobby or sport are great ideas. She's was amazing at drama at junior school so I'm going to look into this. We take all media devices away from both DC at bedtime by the way.

DD's Instagram account is private and she posts as many nature pictures as selfies, and even those are more arty than pouty.

@cloudymelonade one of the main things bothering her is that her BF is more conventional than her, in looks and personality, and she has been much more 'accepted by the clique'.

While I realise this has always happened in secondary schools, it's the social media consequences of it that have got to my DD. Because her BF is now seen to be popular, loads of girls at the (huge) school have now asked to follow her on Instagram and in a couple of months she's acquired double the number of followers my DD has. Her account is also private but she's now got a sufficient following to attract random peers in her area now rather than friends of friends of friends etc. It's like they've been fed into this vast popularity ranking system, with her BF climbing up while DD crawls bit by bit!

This is how it seems from yesterday's conversation anyway, and what shocked me was having it explained in detail how much their real lives really do feed into social media, when I thought it was much more separate, ie 'not real' and therefore they could more easily switch off from it emotionally. I was wrong!

OccidentalPurist Sun 31-Mar-19 13:25:14

@Springisallaround wow you're a strong woman!

I follow DD and her BF on Instagram (it's why I joined) and I also have her phone password, so can check easily if I want.

There are never nasty comments, so she's not being bullied, it's just the whole popularity thing that's got to her. When she left junior she felt equal to her BF (as they are), but she's now feeling inadequate in comparison, and what concerns me the most is that it's for ALL THE WRONG REASONS!

SweatyUnderboob Sun 31-Mar-19 13:26:43

Give her a book called “What a time to be alone” by Chidera Eggerue aka the slum flower

BloodsportForAll Sun 31-Mar-19 13:28:00

You can tell her that this 36 year old adult has struggled with facebook, that it's only by coming off it entirely that I've started to feel better - about myself, about where I stand with other people, and so on.

I use insta but not all my friends do. My lack of facebook means people have to bother to message or ring or email me now. And it encourages me to contact people individually or in a group on what's app, which is much more personal.

My year seven girl hasn't got insta but has been asking for two years. I'm close to relenting, because she wants to use it for her art, to be creative. But your post has got me worried now.

Encourage her to widen her friendship circle at school. She and her friend may even drift apart naturally. I remember my first two years well.

I don't think stopping her from using it will help, but I don't have a solution either.

Smartieshavetheanswer Sun 31-Mar-19 13:40:04

When you step away from SM yourself, you really are able to see how crazy the system is and the risky effects it has on our children. Looks, body shape, personality all up for critique by randoms that shouldn't really matter.

Some of you have mentioned your DC feeling lower self-worth because they don't have as many hits and likes or followers. Why does ANY of it matter?

Think logically - in real life, our closest friends and relatives aren't accessible to us day and night - it wouldn't be healthy. Yet allowing your DC on social media is opening the door to that. Until someone shows me otherwise - concrete evidence - that SM is improving the health and well-being of your DC, then I truly believe it's one risk too many. We shield our DC from so many dangers yet allow them free access and free exposure to a world we cannot touch. You're all way too heavily caught up in this.

As far as making my DC tech savvy - allowing them on SM is not the way to increase their digital competency. There are many other ways.

My DD doesn't miss out on any news/events as her friends text her or, hows this for a novel idea - speak to her in person or over the phone.

OccidentalPurist Sun 31-Mar-19 14:09:07

@Smartieshavetheanswer I was thinking along the same lines as you until my DD opened up.

It's how much it's tied up with her real life that's bothering me/her. I wish it was randoms and not people she has to interact with every day!

PlainSpeakingStraightTalking Sun 31-Mar-19 14:20:09

All those years ago, when we went for you Y7 induction evening, we were forewarned that there would be a dramatic shift in friendships in Y7, usually post Christmas, it's happened since time immemorial

Why? because primary is small in comparison to secondary, one or two forms compared to five, six or even twelve forms as some schools round here are. Here, there is no such thing as 'feeder' primary school - secondaries take in from nearly 80 primaries - and for those of you up country, I don't think you understand how gigantic a single borough in London is in terms of population density . But I digress.

So all these new kids, and the freedom of getting the bus or walking home without parental escort, and 'play dates' are no longer manufactured by parents, and who ever was your bestie in primary may not be in your form or streamed with you for lessons. Children in Y7 find their own friendship groups, some mature a lot quicker than others and can cope with change, some find the whole transition very difficult and cant adapt.

Not all Y7s use SM, some live on it, some use it responsibly, some duck pout and look like footballers wannabe wives from a very young age, some post pictures of kittens and fluffy. Each will find heir own level - but if it's a problem - then they need the maturity to disable the account.

FWIW I have a 48yo mate who bitterly complains if she doesn't get the required likes , so it isn't a child related thing !

Smartieshavetheanswer Sun 31-Mar-19 14:29:15

OP - I hear you.
When there was discord or nastiness years before, you'd go home, moan to your Mam, be allowed maybe 10 mins to call your friend on the landline (before you Mam would yell at you that it was peak-time expensive!) but essentially, it would cool down and diffuse overnight and your head would be allowed other distractions and be given a break from it.

That stress is now with them a LOT longer and from experience, it snowballs into deeply unpleasant things online.

If it's her friends, then a shaper word with parents are necessary and a full step back from social media. As the previous poster said - it needs an adult to step up and make a decision.

Smartieshavetheanswer Sun 31-Mar-19 14:31:09

I feel so strongly about it. Schools deal with a huge, I cannot stress this enough, HUGE amount of nastiness and stress because of pupils online activity.

It's heart-breaking.

DoesLittle Sun 31-Mar-19 14:43:43

Would also strongly advocate outside interests. They then can have an intriguing 'other life' outside school.

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