Social Media Concerns
Are you a parent that has to worry about who your kids are talking to on social media? Are you afraid for their safety, that they might be introduced to someone who could exploit them more easily online than in person? Are you concerned about what concepts they might be exposed to? And also, do you have your finger on the pulse of whether they could be the bully to a classmate?
There are variety of ways one can answer these and similar questions, but for the sake of this clarity I will categorize a little in saying that some parents don’t supervise at all, some monitor very well, and some outright ban their kids from social media. As someone who just got married and hopes to have children, these are questions worth asking.
I approach the subject with a fair amount of personal bias against social media and other forms media viewing on screens. I spent a year and a half in a monastery where my internet usage was minimal, we didn’t have a TV, and I didn’t know any news reports during that time, which left me pretty out of the loop on current events. So when I read an article that says it is inevitable in this age for teens to use the internet and social media despite the safety concerns, I can’t help but think the whole premise of the article is on a bad foundation.
Social Media Shepherding
In a recent article on CNN, parents are advised not to ban their children from social media because that is seen as unrealistic. Instead they suggest engaging them about what they are doing online. Turn what they are doing into a conversation piece. Ask them questions so they can teach you about their favorite app. And make sure you do necessary spot checks to make sure they are staying safe and appropriate. These all seem like reasonable suggestions to shepherd your children’s social media experiences. The problem I have with this article is not the monitoring, the conversations, or the questions, but the assumption that internet needs to be a BIG part of our lives and we can’t get around it.
As a student I know this is partially true, but I am an adult and should expect to have the responsibility of using the internet wisely. With kids I am much more concerned that screens don’t become more important than people. I see it all the time at the group home that I work at for teen boys. They can spend hours on the phone or on Facebook and do not even say hi when they pass by me in the hallway. I don’t have all the answers for this dilemma, but damn, I hope my kids are human enough to never do that. I wouldn’t want them to miss the beauty that every person presents when you meet them in person. If I thought banning them completely from social media was the answer I would.
Social Media Lock down
There is one father who is willing to ban his kids from their mobile phone and social media. Jamie Oliver reported to the Guardian that he is worried that his girls will be bullied on sites like Facebook or Instagram. He acknowledges that his eldest daughter is the only girl in her class without a mobile phone, but he believes it is in her best interest. Other parents agree. They see how easy it is for their child to stumble onto an inappropriate video on you tube. They know that as much as they monitor their kids Facebook it only takes one clever person to exploit their child. But the truth is that kids will find a way to use the internet with or without your permission.
What should I do?
For me the answer does not lie solely here or there. I see the value in restricting my children’s access to technology so they stay safe. I also think one thing I can do for them is to teach them how to use and not use the internet, which will allow them to blossom into their own independent usage that will be an important tool for their future success.
On the one hand, my goal is not to control them, but to be their filter. And on the other hand I want them to be successful in using the internet for school and work; knowing that it is a valuable tool at their disposal. However, the internet is a tool for them to have a life, it is not the essence of life. My answer is indirect and lies within the context what kind of person I model for my children. I hope I don’t have to worry about my kids being the bully on Facebook, because I taught them how to respect people in person. I hope they have interests in making real friends, because they have seen from me that one deep friendship is more worthwhile than all the attention they can receive through self-promotion on Facebook.
Personally, I don’t find satisfaction in social media, so I don’t want my kids to either. It then becomes a challenge for me to be honest with myself about the reasons for my own internet usage, and what kind of fruit it has in my life. But tell me, am I way out in left field saying I don’t like using social media? The premise of my argument for you is totally undermined if I am. That leaves me in the position to learn from you how social media enhances your life. I am interested in hearing that and seeing how your view of social media affects what your concerns are for children. What’s your perspective?