No, My Kids Aren't Allowed In Their Friends' TikToks


Raising kids in this digital age is a lot — and honestly, kind of terrifying. Sure, it’s not the wild west of chat rooms and AOL instant messenger that we grew up on, but there are tons of unique challenges that come with raising tech-savvy Gen Alpha kids. So many kids use their tablets to play games, computers to do homework, and phones to get lost in social media for hours. Not my kids, though. In fact, I won’t even let them appear in their friends’ TikToks. Sorry, not even for those goofy dance challenges.

I’m almost entirely without social media myself, and I have zero reservations about enforcing those same choices with my kids. What gets tricky is that my kid, who is moments away from being 12, has friends who’ve been on social media platforms like TikTok for a couple of years. But she isn’t online. She doesn’t even have any social media accounts.

We share a family YouTube login (only for watching, not creating) so I can keep tabs on what she’s been watching — not because I’m determined to filter every little thing that comes in our house, but mainly to be aware. We’ve talked about someday having her own socials, but even then, keeping some of her private life private. Yes, we’ve all fallen into the trend of showing off our Instagrammable brunch now and again (is my millennial showing?), but not every moment of our lives needs to be documented.

Mine seems like an unpopular opinion, because it seems like she’s the only one who isn’t online. Here’s the tricky part: Because most of her friends are online, they want to include her in all of their videos too. But she knows she is not allowed. I must admit, for a nanosecond, I was on the fence about letting her participate in her friends’ online world. After all, I didn’t want her to feel left out or think she was missing out on bonding time with her buddies. We all remember what it was like to be the only kid who wasn’t allowed to do something — for me, it was being banned from watching Spice World in the late 90s.

Of course, I begged and pleaded because everyone else was doing it, and when it comes to my kid, it seems like that part hasn’t really changed. She didn’t beg and plead, but she made sure to let me know that she’s literally the only one not allowed (as she lists off every tweenager she knows, swearing all their parents said yes). I’ve talked to other moms and it appeared that I wasn’t the only one enforcing these rules, but who knows?

I found a way around my mom’s rule about Spice World, and I’m sure these kids can do the same. And I’m trying to avoid creating a dynamic where she feels like she has to sneak around to “feel heard.” Does this mean she won’t pull some tweenaged-ish and try to go around the rules? Maybe, maybe not, but we talk about it (ad nauseum) so she’s well aware of the consequences that come with making certain decisions. I listen while she explains all the reasons why she should be allowed, and I validate how she feels, but I also explain why the answer is still no and try to find small points to compromise on — like that shared YouTube channel.

My daughter loves YouTube Shorts, which helps her stay in the loop with all the trends, so she isn’t totally lost when her friends chat about what they see online. But she knows that’s where the line is drawn. We’ve talked about the very real safety risks online, which also helps me stand firmly in my decision to ensure she’s behind the camera at all times.

It might seem like I’m resisting change by setting these boundaries, but I do it because I truly feel it’s what’s best for my daughters mentally and emotionally. It’s not just about the safety issue of her showing her face online, either. Surely we’ve all seen the absolutely wild amount of research about how negatively social media can affect mental health (which I know firsthand, from when I struggled with this in my 20s). Everyone and everything looks perfect all the time, which feels like a real bummer when you compare it to your ordinary life. Sure, scrolling can be fun, and it’s nice to see what everyone is up to, but doing it too often for too long just isn’t worth the potential harm it can do. Compare it to Pandora’s Box — once you open it, it seems impossible to get the lid on again. I want my daughters to live firmly grounded in the world offline, rather than getting completely sucked into the universe of their smartphones and tablets.

Believe it or not, when we talked about the world of social media and how she felt about it, I didn’t get the pushback I expected. I’m sure part of it was thanks to a recent cyberbullying and sexting guidance lesson she recently had in school, but regardless, I was glad. We talked about how being offline and out of friends’ social feeds isn’t a punishment, and it’s not because I don’t want her to have fun. She still joins in with her gal pals but participates off-screen. After all, isn’t it about having a good time with your friends regardless if it’s being recorded?

Yes, it might sound basic, but we also brainstormed other ways she could join the fun without being on a screen. We invested in one of those old-school polaroids (and a considerable amount at the craft store) for scrapbooking. This way, she can memorialize good times with great friends, never worrying about who else is looking at their photos, and spend quality time talking, reminiscing, and getting creative.

I know it isn’t realistic to expect her to stay off social media forever. But I do hope that when she decides to join, it doesn’t become a major part of her day-to-day life and she’s smart about how she interacts and what she shares.

When I think about how many of these kids will look back at the fact that every moment of their lives was documented and now live on the internet forever, I guarantee most of them will shake their heads and wonder what they were thinking. For now, it’s better to make connections and memories IRL that will always be deeper, safer, and more fulfilling than hanging out online.

Holly Garcia writes about parenting, mental health, and all the lifestyle things. She hails from the Midwest, where she’s raising her daughters and drinking copious amounts of coffee.



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