We’ve offered our children $5,000 to stay off social media until the end of high school

We’ve offered our children $5,000 to stay off social media until the end of high school
  • PublishedJune 9, 2024

Making choices around children’s and teenagers’ access to social media is an increasingly difficult decision for parents to navigate.

Rhiannon (we have withheld her surname for privacy) is a Boorloo/Perth-based mother of three children, aged 15, 13, and 11, who, alongside her husband, Ben, came up with the idea of offering each of their children $5,000 to stay off social media until they finish year 12. 

These are Rhiannon’s words.

Why we don’t want our kids using social media

For us, there were a few different reasons why we didn’t want our children using social media, but one was the impact on their mental health.

That concern came from seeing the children and young adults around us and observing that they always looked on their phones and were unable to be present in conversations.

We signed a contract with our child

When our eldest child was turning 12, we gave him a phone [for his birthday].

At the very beginning we signed a contract with our child — we would ask him if we could check his phone and we would respect his privacy.

Snapchat is the social media platform that’s popular and on trend in his peer group and when he first asked us about joining Snapchat, he was young enough that we were able to say no.

When he was nearly 15, that’s when the idea was born of wanting to try to persuade him — or support him — to stay off social media.

I’d been talking to other parents and my mum and dad … and someone mentioned a family where the parents, who were doctors, had given their children $10,000 or something ridiculous to stay off [social media] until year 12, and their children all accepted that.

I thought, ‘Oh my God, that is an amazing idea … but we can’t afford $10,000.’ We’ll have to find $5,000 per child, but we thought that was a [worthwhile] sacrifice.

My eldest child chose Snapchat over $5,000

There are some small strings attached. It’s: “You can have five grand, but you’ve got to be smart with that five grand.” [It might] go towards a car, or a holiday.

We were able to push out [our eldest child joining social media] a bit more, but I think he was feeling a bit disconnected from his peers.

So then we said, well, if you don’t want to negate the $5,000, you can have a trial of Snapchat for a month and see how you go.

At the end of that month, we had a big chat, and he said, “I think I’d like to forego my $5,000”, but then he did say, “But could it be pro-rata-ed? Could I get some money because I haven’t been on it until now?”

And we said, “No … That’s a great idea [for you], but that’s not possible, sorry, mate.”

Our other son has his eye on the prize

Now, the next one’s coming through and he’s a different cat. He’s really got his eye on the prize, and doesn’t care how he communicates with his friends — he will find a way.

He wants the five grand and he is not moving on that and he’s decided he’s buying a boat at the end of year 12.

Our youngest will probably get a phone in year 7 sometime, when we feel like it’s necessary from that social point of view. She doesn’t want to be peer-pressured into being on social media and I’ll do everything possible for her to keep the five grand.

They’ll thank me one day

As parents, we have to teach and support our children, from when they’re crawling and starting to walk, through to primary school and beyond.

Having a phone is like driving a car, and we need to help them with navigating how to balance their phone life with being-present life. Who else is there to do that? We’re parents and we’ve got to own that.

Sometimes I think, “Am I actually doing the right thing?”

It really does make me question my parenting and whether I should conform to the majority, but I have this strong instinct that keeps me going for the health and safety of my children. And they’ll thank me one day.


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