Motherhood, celebrity culture, and social media – how to raise children in the social media age

I woke up the other night to my three-year old son having a full on nightmare. His small body arched across the bed in his Batman pyjamas, he was trying to punch an invisible force in front of him. I couldn’t get him to wake up for a while. When I did, he sobbed into my arms that there was a bad snake, trying to eat him. Bad snake? How weird. I couldn’t think of any snakes we’d come across recently. Until then some more words popped out his mouth. “Ninjago, Mummy. It was from Ninjago.” Damn, I thought – was Ninjago inappropriate? His brother is older than him and, I’m ashamed to admit – the television sometimes goes unsupervised. 

My second novel, Your Guilty Secret is about an A-list celebrity – Lara King – whose life unravels in the public eye. Lara King is supposedly one of the good ones – she eats healthily, dresses well, exercises and dotes on her six-year old daughter – on social media, they have the perfect life. But behind closed doors, all is not as it seems. When researching for the book, I started to follow a host of celebrities on Twitter and Instagram. I was amazed at their perfectly curated lives (either positively, or negatively) – and how much they were trying to sell to their fans. How pliable small minds are – and how even now my children want to be a part of the latest fads they hear about in the playground.

All of this sprang to mind when I thought about how to tackle my son’s nightmare. How will I insure my kids against celebrity influence over them in later years? The weird suicide challenge Momo games? Can I stop them wanting expensive trainers boasted by the likes of Kanye West? Who should be responsible for all of this?

Should I start teaching them now? And if so what should I do? Stop television altogether? Perhaps – if I wanted to shoot myself in the foot. After all, the celebrity gravy train is not going to stop any time soon.

One thing I decided I could do, was to be more present when they’re watching television. I could try and explain and speak to them honestly about it all, in preparation for the later onslaught of social media.

Ultimately it’s not up to the celebrities, or actors and actresses to be responsible for their viewers and fans. For all the Kardashian’s of the world selling appetite-inhibiting lollipops, there’s mercifully a Jameela Jamil telling us it’s a load of crap.

But at the end of the day, the buck stops with us – the parents. Not just to stop the kids from having access to all of this stuff. But to try and teach them how to navigate the murky waters of the online world and by teaching them what is real, and what is not. And as to whether it will work or not? Who knows – we can but try.

Your Guilty Secret by Rebecca Thornton. Published by Zaffre. Paperback 7th March 2019 £7.99


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