Keeping Up With Social Media

Growing up social media did not have much of an impact on my life.

My father worked in computers, so we had a computer in our house. This wasn’t a norm in most households in the early 80s. Everyone thought we were rich. lol

I learned how to type on a typewriter.

I communicated with my friends by walking down to their house, writing a note, or calling them on our rotary phone.

Fast forward to 2011, kids are growing up with iPhones, Droids, iPads, email, text, Skype, Google+, twitter, Facebook…and who knows what’s around the corner.

As parents, we need to work hard to keep up with modern technology and how our kids are communicating. Don’t shy away from something bc you don’t understand it. You could really be missing out on key components to your child’s everyday life.

The Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company in New York is doing a play called Facebook Me. The play was created by junior high and high school aged girls. It explores the lives of 10 girls as they navigate their adolescence online. It’s a shockingly real look at the teenage Facebook experience .

If you don’t believe in the power and prevelance of social networking with today’s youth, here are a few startling quotes from some of the cast members regarding their expericence with social media:

“There’s more ‘life’ happening online than offline.  If you are not online, you are completely out of the loop–you don’t have a life, you don’t really exist.”  

–Hannah, 13 years old

“I’m online even during class.  I’m supposed to be taking notes but instead I’m commenting on stuff and uploading pictures.”  

–Emma, 14 years old

“I feel safer online than I do offline.  So I do things online that I wouldn’t do in real life.”

–Sadie, 14 years old

“I’ve become very good at taking pictures of myself.  I know what angle is best, I know how to part my lips…you know.  It’s like the number one thing on my mind is ‘I need to get home right now and take a new profile picture.’  All because I want someone to comment on how I look.”

–Katie, 15 years old

 “Social networking affects all the things you do in real life now.  Like, if you go to a party, one of the most important aspects of going to the party is to document yourself for online posts.  You have to prove you were looking good, you were having fun, and that you were actually there!  It’s not about the party anymore but about the pictures of the party.”  

–Caroline, 14 years old

“I feel sad, depressed, jealous, or whatever when I don’t get a lot of “Likes” on my photo or when someone else gets way more Likes than me. Honestly, I’m not sure that parents realize how drastically it affects our self-image and confidence. If I see a picture of a really pretty girl, it’s like ‘Goodbye self-esteem.’  It forces me to compete and do stuff that I don’t want to do, so my confidence will get a boost.”  

–Samantha, 14 years old

“Sometimes I feel like I’m losing control. I want my parents to tell me to get off the computer. Actually, they would need to literally take the computer away because I can’t stop myself.”

–Nina, 15 years old

“My friendships are really affected by social networking. You have to constantly validate your friends online. And everyone’s like ‘Where were you?’ ‘What have you been doing?’  ‘Why haven’t you commented on my picture yet?’ So you have to be online all the time, just to keep track, so you don’t upset anyone.”  

–Jasmine, 13 years old

“There is so much pressure to look happy all the time—you can never just be yourself– because everybody is always taking pictures and posting them.”

–Nikki, 13 years old

“I really want my mom to be proud of me.  Obviously, I want her to think I’m writing my essay or doing things I should be doing instead of being on Facebook.  But I also want to be online. So I lie or accuse her of not trusting me.  It’s awful, but I’ve become really comfortable with lying.”  

–Maya, 14 years old

Many of our children are more advanced than we are when it comes to gadgets and social media. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be in control of our household and what our children are doing. We must continue to educate ourselves and be aware of what is going on in our children’s lives.

In an article by Laura Weir she cites these tips from Professor Larry D. Rosen, the author of Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn and Me, Myspace, and I: Parenting the Net Generation. He offers this advice:

  • Start young. You wouldn’t let your toddler cross the street without holding your hand, so don’t hand them your iPhone to play with for the first time without starting a simple discussion about the appropriate use of technology. These discussions need to be ongoing and become more complex as kids get older.
  • Listen. The ratio of parent listening to parent talking should be about five to one. Ask nonjudgmental questions in order to learn and assess. Here’s an example: “I heard the term cyberbullying. Do you know what this is?” If kids think they are going to be “slammed” by their parents on a topic, they will shut down.
  • Institute family meals with tech breaks. Current psychological literature recommends that families sit down and share at least 3 or 4 meals together a week. Keep them short–under 45 minutes–and tech free for the most part. Give everyone a two-minute warning to check whatever device beforehand. After 15 minutes, allow a one minute message or text check. Aim to expand the tech free time as your kids become more focused.
  • Don’t use your ignorance about technology as an excuse. It’s true that kids know more about technology than parents but this is a poor reason for adults to act clueless about what teens or tweens might be doing online. Equally counterproductive is letting a kid spend hours on end alone in their room on the computer so you “can get work done.”
  • Don’t rely on secretly monitoring online activities. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, most kids can work around parents’ surveillance in a matter of minutes.
  • Look for warning signs. If your child is regularly staying home “sick” from school and spending the entire day on the computer, if they choose to be online more often than out with friends, or if their grades are suffering because they are distracted by technology, you need to step in and help them create boundaries. With their input, draft a written contract with clear rules and consequences. Often, parents make initial penalties too big such as grounding their kid for a month if they catch them online in the middle of the night. Better to start small such as losing their phone for an hour and escalate as necessary.
There are many advantages and positive things from social media. It’s up to us to stay informed and educated. Don’t shy away from technology. It’s not going anywhere, and it’s only gonna continue to grow and get more advanced. Try and embrace it at least a little. Your kids will appreciate it and you never know, you just might like it. 🙂
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