Birthday Party Photos on Facebook Might Make Kids Feel Left Out​, But Isn't that Part of Life?

birthday partyFrom the beginning, experts have been warning parents about the dangers their children face in cyberspace. Pedophiles! Pornography! Nigerians princes! What’s the latest peril to be avoided at all costs? Pictures on Facebook. Of parties. That your child wasn’t invited to.

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Oh, the horror! The horror!

Back in the good old days, you had to wait until Monday morning at school to accidentally-on-purpose overhear about the fun you’d been excluded from over the weekend. (Because even before texting, if somebody went out of their way to make you feel bad, they also went out of their way to let you know it.) Now there’s opportunity to feel the sting in real time, with instantly updated photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Children are upset! Parents are upset! Someone should do something! There should be firm rules and guidelines about who can share what, when and how, preferably compiled by people with PhDs in adolescent development, whom everyone is required to follow on their own personal Facebook pages. In a list of "expert advice" The Today Show shared this week, experts suggest:

  1. Circulate photos from small gatherings only among those who attended.
  2. Delay the posting to blur the exact time of the event.
  3. Limit the number of photos to three to avoid looking obnoxious.

We could have our kids do this (and do it ourselves). Or we could use these photos of events they weren't invited to as a teachable moment for our younger kids about how life isn’t fair, uncool stuff happens and always will. This is how we suck it up and go on with our lives.

If kids can't post photos of themselves having fun on social media unless everyone they know is included, does it also mean kids can’t play with only one person or a few people at recess? Won’t that make everyone they are not playing with, ipso facto, feel equally left out?

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How about hanging up a photo in their room? Is that okay? What if a classmate comes over and is upset that they’re not in it? Can you wear a summer camp T-shirt? How about a hat from an amusement park or concert? Not everyone went, after all. Should all evidence of non-group activity be shredded, lest a stray feeling is inadvertently hurt?

At some point, kids need to learn to deal with the disappointment.

As for high-school age kids, social media didn’t invent complicated social dynamics. Those predate the internet. And computers. And electricity.

Instead of feeding their teen’s obsession with knowing where all of their friends (and frenemies) are at all times by getting equally as upset as they are at the slightest perceived slight, maybe parents could actually help teens expand their perspective. They might ask why it matters if so-and-so went to such-and-such and didn’t invite you. They might even go so far as to suggest that instead of being glued to your phone monitoring others' activities, you run along and do an activity of your own. And, sure, yeah, post pictures of it so others can feel bad, why not?

If you’re really feeling adventurous, you might even mention to your teen that there could -- odds are good -- be occasions in the future where the guy (or girl) they like doesn’t like them back, and that person then has the audacity to go out in public with someone else.  Or that guy you think is really stupid, he gets the promotion at work that you wanted. And he has the gall to accept it! Right there, in front of you! (He might even mention it on Facebook.)

In the words of The Princess Bride, this is a good age to “Get used to disappointment.” And come up with strategies for dealing with it.

What are your thoughts about kids feeling excluded on social media?


Image via © iStock.com/Mark Bowden

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