I LOVE social media. I LOVE having my iPhone. I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. I am also a 47 year old adult, who is a married mom of teen girls. To me, social media is a way to stay in touch with new and old friends, promote my book and business, share photos and use goofy filters to send funny things to friends. It is a way to communicate quickly and easily. A convenience. But I also know life BEFORE the cell phone, smartphone and all the social media….I know that dates me – I don’t care. While I love the immediacy of a smartphone, I miss the days of good old fashion communication. Intentionally calling a person, talking to face to face to a person and even writing a letter to a person… and the innocent excitement of being on the receiving end of it as well. A time where if you wanted privacy to talk to a boy, you had to stretch that gazillion foot cord out of the kitchen, around the corner and hoped it reached your bedroom. Hanging out with your friends actually talking, doing things and being active WITHOUT a phone glued to your hand. You had to be brave if you wanted to state an opinion, you needed guts to be mean to someone’s face, you were patient waiting to hear from someone because that is all you knew.
Today the world is so different. I am part of a generation whose children know only cell phones and social media. It is a brand new parenting adventure. While technology advances more and more everyday, I think our kids (and us adults as well) forget communication skills, politeness and being decent when our opinions differ. It is easy to hide behind a keyboard and immediately type what you think – especially in the heat of a moment of anger or hurt. It’s easy to leave friends out of things intentionally by not tagging them in a photo. There is a world of bullying that happens as well. Written word through technology lacks tone, feeling and intent. It is so hard to read someone’s attitude and meaning of a comment in black and white type or an emoji.
As a parent with teenage daughters I find myself struggling with how to teach them to be thick skinned, kind and socially appropriate on social media. My daughters are both obsessed with a teen YouTube star. A kid made famous THROUGH social media and the internet. They post pics, change their screen names to reflect his last name etc and get hate posts for it. REALLY?! So different than ripping out endless posters of teen heart throbs from a Tigerbeat magazine and taping to my bedroom wall. My one daughter who struggles socially texted a ‘friend’ asking if she wanted to go to Starbucks sometime. The girl said “sure”. My daughter followed up a few days later with her and this girl responded with “Oh, I was just kidding. Someone grabbed my phone and answered you”. SERIOUSLY? It breaks my heart the lack of emotion, empathy and kindness I see online. How do we as parents teach our kids how to be all those things online while teaching them how to be thick skinned when people don’t agree with them and hide behind a keyboard??
I feel as though I am constantly checking phones and accounts of my daughters…explaining things. It is a full time job. I am also amazed the number of young teen/tween girls making music lipsynced videos that are so inappropriate and have every curse word in the book in them and then broadcasting it on the interwebs for all to see forever. Once its out there…it is out there. I wont even get into sexting, inappropriate photos and videos taken without knowledge of the person in them. It is such a new world as a parent…and a child. SO many parents have no clue about it all (including me at times). SO many kids just get a phone and boom, that’s it. I am NO professional and not a perfect parent. I am sure there are numerous things I don’t see.
How do we navigate through wonderful technology advances in a positive way, yet educate children AND parents about it? How do we teach the balance for expressing an opinion and standing up for something without hiding BEHIND a keyboard?
I have no answers, but so many concerns. We have so many life classes in schools – how to sew, how to use power tools, how to paint….what about mandatory classes on social media and etiquette? We vote for ipads in schools to keep up with the technology times, yet we don’t educate kids on proper behavior. We can raise great kids with good morals etc but online communication gives them a fake braveness and a shield to hide behind….