“But Everyone Else Has That App!”—How To Keep Up With The (Internet) Joneses

Galit Breen Elementary School

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Dear Galit,

So my question is about apps. How do we, as parents, deal with our child wanting an app (or something similar) that we have researched and do not feel comfortable with, but the majority (or even all) of her friends have? H-e-l-p!


Overwhelmed By All Those Apps

Dear Overwhelmed,

The very first thing that you should know is that you are so not alone here! Every single day—seriously, every single one—someone tags me in a Facebook post about the latest app in the hot seat.

First things first

This happens, first, because everyday a new app becomes a kid favorite, making the mistakes kids are making on it a lot more common and a lot more visible.

And the second reason this happens is because we’re all bootstrapping it here and doing our absolute best while we do.

But every time we go all in to learning (and hating) a specific app, we find ourselves chasing the app-tail because the next time a new app becomes a favorite, the whole cycle starts again!

This leaves many parents feeling like this whole digital education topic is never ending and, quite honestly, making parenting a whole lot harder!

So what you need to stop this madness is a system in place for how new apps get vetted in your home.

The system that I use at my house is called, “Convince Me,” and here’s how it works.

When my kids are interested in using a new app, I have them research 4 things:

  1. What are the age guidelines and why do they think these are in place.
  2. What are the privacy settings and why do they think these are in place.
  3. Which of their friends are already using this app and how do they use it.
  4. What is their plan for how they will use this app / Why are they interested in it.

Once they’ve researched these questions, we sit down together to discuss them and decide together what the plan is for using this app.

Now I have to confess something to you.

Sometimes when I’ve done this with my kids they have ended up deciding all on their own that they didn’t want to use the app after all.

This is so super powerful for them to decide and much more impactful than if I had said, “no” to their ask.

Here’s why this is true.

This process is so effective because:

  1. It empowers our kids.
  2. It keeps our Ongoing Dialogue wide open.
  3. It’s respectful, and respect begets respect—we need this (so much) as we parent this digital age!
  4. It models that we don’t just snag every app we come across or that our friends use.

Instead, we make wise, informed decisions about how we spend our online time.

One more thought

You might be wondering why I ask my kids to also tell me why they are interested in using the app in the first place.

I have found with my own kids and with many of my students’ kids that sometimes the aspects of the app that they are the most interested in aren’t even the ones that I am concerned about them using!

Having this information means that sometimes I’m able to say “yes” to the safe (to me) and fun (to them) parts without giving them access to every (worrisome) feature.

This one “hack” has made a huge difference for my family in managing app asks and I hope that you find it helpful as well!

If your kids are starting to show an interest in the online world:

I have a detailed checklist for you to use. It’s super helpful and you can get it RIGHT HERE.

Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple, no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. You can get her parents’ checklist for moms of new(ish) digital kids RIGHT HERE.

P.S. This is a 6 week series about raising digital kids.

Week 1 we discussed screen time limits and whether they’re helpful or harmful.

Week 2 how to keep our kids safe, but still allow them to enjoy all of the benefits that the online world has to offer.

And next week we will be digging into tricky online areas to watch for. See you then!

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Galit Breen

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