Unfriended! Parenting in a Social Media World
- Monday, March 05, 2012
In today's world of technology, we seem to have encountered issues and challenges our parents did not face. It is hard to believe there are truly new issues, but social media is a creation which the world had never seen until the end of the last century.
As with most cultural changes, there are blessings and curses associated with each new phenomenon. In the last several months, we witnessed a nation's ruling party be overturned, due in part to the influence social media had upon its citizens. If it can impact a nation, whatever is it doing to today's families?
Unfortunately, we are seeing issues surface which reflect the state of the family's condition through social media relationships. Thankfully, there are numerous ways parents can regain lost ground in this new era of communication. Let me highlight some opportunities, as well as responsibilities, parents need to seize in order to establish healthy habits in the home:
The Early Years
Today's young children are being exposed to the computer at very early ages. In fact, there is software that introduces a young child to the computer in order to make it more appealing and fun. Some of these products can be helpful in learning numbers and ABC's, but they should not replace books, flash cards, and puzzles. It should be a supplemental method and not the primary way children learn the basics.
Computer time should be limited to no more than 30 minutes per day and only if the child is interested in being on the computer. Games are an excuse for children to be on it for longer periods of time, but do not let their enjoyment persuade you to allow extended time on the computer.
Children below the age of ten have no business owning a cell phone or having a Facebook or Twitter page. They do not have the maturity to deal with the freedom and the responsibility that come with managing multiple relationships. Here is where the problems typically begin.
I often hear the argument that a seven year old needs a cell phone so if a problem should arise while they are at a sleepover, they can notify their parents. My argument to that is if a parent thinks there is going to be an issue, then don't allow the child to stay overnight. Technology has allowed too much responsibility to be placed on the child for their own well-being and this is simply unfair and unhealthy. Children need to grow up with parents doing their job so they do not have to grow up too quickly.
Social media for children and tweens under twelve is typically asking for problems. Parents will hear the argument that everyone has a Facebook or Twitter account, but don't let that stop you from being firm on this matter. Once your child has one of these outlets, you are going to have to be involved quite frequently in order to guide, protect, and teach your child how to handle the responsibility.
Cell phones need to be monitored because this age seems to struggle when it comes to time management, relationships, and good judgment. This is not a criticism, but just a by-product of where they are developmentally. More often than not, this age group simply does not think about how their actions may have long term implications.
One of my friends recently shared with me that she was returning home from a road trip and noticed a bus from a local school about three hours from home. As she drove around the bus, she discovered the girls had written their cell phone numbers on paper and placed them in the window so people could get their number to call them. What was particularly scary to my friend was that she witnessed a trucker slowing down alongside the bus as if he was taking the numbers down. The potential danger in this situation is unimaginable.
Limit computer time to no more than an hour a day and be sure the computer is in the main part of the house. Do not let your middle school children have computers in their rooms because it removes your ability to monitor their activity and screen habits. They won't like this, but that is okay. It is not your job to make them happy, but to protect them from themselves and teach them the lost virtue of moderation.
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