Let’s talk about Social Media.
I’m in a bit of a heated debate with someone right now about Social Media and children, specifically teens…
When I was pregnant with my now 16 year old son, I sold homepages to companies. Imagine if you will, a world not familiar with this thing called The Intenet. It was not quite 2 decades ago. These large companies I was calling to offer an internet presence to had never even heard of this thing called “The Internet”. Back then the only people with email addresses were college students, Libraries and some very large companies. I remember a collegue and close friend of mine trying to sell a home page to a very respected retailer when the CEO told her ” No one will ever buy anything over this thing called ‘the internet.” I’d imagine he would like to eat those words now. He probably didn’t have that title for very long, either.
Shortly (in relevant terms) after the Internet was born , Facebook was created. Then Twitter and things like Instagram, etc. New and fascinating pieces of Social Media are being born for this world to enjoy (or not) practically every day. Along with Social Media, come the ways to use that media. Laptops and Smart phones, iPods and iPads. I know my children, especially my daughter and her friends document practically every moment of their day with their Smartphone. Photos of her and her friends and their daily movements are plentiful. Heck, they even take pictures of their conversations!
To that end, it is my contention that Social Media is here to stay. I take the stance that rather than deny kids access to things like the Internet and it ‘s offerings ie: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc , it is our job as parents/adults to teach them how to handle such things. We need to teach them how to deal with the ramifications of their behavior on said sites and how to use them wisely. It is our responsibility to teach them that whatever is posted today, will be there in their tomorrows.
I have come to learn that not everyone shares these views and some people close to me believe that it is better to shelter the children from these things. Lock them away, if you will. Deny them the right to use them. I fear that doing so will only harm the kids and make it worse for them once they reach the age that we are no longer in control of their actions. I feel as though behavior like that is as antiquated as the dial phone.
Social media is a part of everything we do these days. We can order our dinners, select our new clothes, even turn on our lights, start our cars and control the environment of our homes all in an instant and all within one or two clicks of a mouse or swipe of a finger. I think that we are foolish to think that our children should not be involved in that world.
If someone bullies my child in the Social Media world, rather than yank my child from that world to shelter and protect them, it should be my job to teach my child how to handle it. To give my child confidence and strength. To teach them what to do about it and provide them with the valuable lesson that bullying is never ok, whether it’s a spoken or a written word.
A big part of being a teen is pushing and testing limits. When we were teens I am fairly certain ( if failing memory serves) we cursed, we complained and we teased. The difference being, it was probably in our best friend’s basement or in the school yard. It wasn’t visible for the world to see. Now, it’s available for all of our “friends” to see AND to comment on 24/7. (Friending- a whole other blog I can’t wait to write…) I suppose that’s the incredibly big difference. We could shut the world off and go to sleep, safe in the comfort of our homes and away from the constant drama. But our children can’t . It never goes away for them and it is up to us as parents to set their limits and to educate these children how to balance real/tangible life *and* their Social Medial lives that they live “in” their Smartphones.
How can we expect our children to evolve into successful adults unless we provide them with the experiences and tools that allow them to grow, to succeed and yes, to feel hurt and also to fail? (The real world is not always a positive place, as much as we wish it were so.) Maybe once upon a time those experiences happened on a playground, but now those life lessons sometime happen in a laptop or on a Smartphone. These devices are every bit as much a part of their world now, too. Rather than shelter them from it, I want to allow my children every opportunity to learn from these new worlds that I can. And just as their world around them is changing so, I believe, are the roles of their parents.
I feel as though denying our children access to these amazing ever evolving things like Social Media and Smartphones would be denying them , as well as ourselves access to the future and I for one , am too excited about the future to do that.