Social Media – Be There for Your Child

Is Social Media “Really” Bad for Our Kids?

Many parents today, myself included, are concerned about the effects social media (and computer games, etc.) is having on our children.  If we are to assume that what we see on TV News (not to mention many of our own social feeds) is an accurate reflection of the experiences of most of our children, then the situation indeed may be dire.  But, is this actually the case?

Let’s be clear.  Social Media has definitely changed the way many of us interact with one another, adults and children alike.  Some of these changes are definitely for the better.  It’s great to be able to stay up to speed on the happenings of those you care about, but might otherwise never hear from.  The best example of this type of Social Media platform is, of course, Facebook.

Unfortunately, the good is offset by a number of potentially significant problems.  One such dilemma is our inability to exclude the negative information that we would not otherwise seek out (in your kid’s world, think “cyber-bullying”).  It can be very difficult to disengage from negative conversations when you carry them around in your pocket at all times.  A second serious challenge is that we tend to find ourselves in “echo chambers”, where much of the content we are presented simply reinforces currently held beliefs.  As you might imagine, a child with low self-esteem, who is constantly presented with information that devalues him, may find himself in a downward spiral.

Of course, we all face these problems to some degree.  But, the consequences can be far more pronounced when experienced by our children.  Sadly, they do not possess the experience or the wisdom to always know what is healthy and what should be ignored.  And more consequentially, they often have very limited frames of reference when attempting to understand the situations they find themselves in and what they feel about them.

Which is Why We Must “Be There With Them”

As parents, it is both our privilege and our responsibility to instruct our children with regard to what is “right and wrong” .  When we were children, much of this education was focused on how we should interact with a limited number of friends, family, and situations, most of which were well known to our parents.  Today, our children may literally be interacting with hundreds of other people in far more situations than we might even imagine.  So, how do we ensure their health and safety?

First and foremost, we have to become educated ourselves.  Don’t worry, you do not need to be an active user on every possible app out there (here’s a fairly comprehensive list).  Start by researching the “Biggies”.  SnapChat, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook command a high percentage of the average young person’s social media exposure.  If you want to create an account on each of these platforms and be linked to your child’s accounts, go ahead.  But, it is probably not necessary “to spy” on them.  The chances that they would do or say something far enough outside your expectations that you would feel compelled to intervene is slim.  It is probably enough that they know you “are around”.  And, they might even take comfort in the knowledge they are not alone.

This approach makes the assumption that your child understands your expectations.  And, this brings us back to parenting.  Not the “Control” parenting many of us would prefer.  This parenting effort is going to require continuous interaction.  To succeed when it comes to social media, we must be present for our children, understand the challenges they may face, and be prepared to listen, empathize and mentor.  Which is why it is absolutely critical that we know what we are talking about.

And, if you think you and your child would benefit from a private environment where you can connect and share information and technology strategies, you can certainly give FamPlan a try.

Just remember, the only thing parents can do that is definitely a bad idea when it comes to social media is to allow their kids to go it alone.

Happy Parenting!

This is Part 2 of a 5 Part Series on Kids and Social Meida


Social Media & The Attention Economy

What is the “Attention Economy” you ask.  Great question… scary answer!

Some of the world’s most recognized technology brands, like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are in a race for our attention.  They no longer have a choice.  These “solutions” are backed by business models that rely on money from advertisers that, quite literally, pay for our attention.  And, since we only have so much time in a day to engage in social media, these tech titans must continually design and deploy increasingly addictive techniques to keep us “hooked” and glued to their app!

As adults, we must learn to treat this phenomenon as we would any addiction.  A little knowledge, recognition that the threat exists, reasonable goals, and “all things in moderation” and we will probably be OK.  But, what does the Attention Economy mean to our children?

Unfortunately, this problem is one that affects both adults and adolescents.  And, the younger (and less mature) among us have little chance of dealing with this problem on their own.  Social Media has conditioned a generation of children to view “Likes”, “Streaks”, and “Shares” as a measure of their self-worth.  This has been so successful that it is now commonly believed that children are less capable of forming real friendships (see TED Harvard Happiness Study), and engaging with those friends in healthy, face-to-face conversations and activities.

To be direct, the Attention Economy is negatively impacting the health of our children… both in the present and well into their futures.

What Can We Do?  Family is the Key!

First, we must all agree that we cannot count on the large technology companies to be part of the solution.

Second, we must all educate ourselves.  Groups like Center for Humane Technology, Siempo, and #UseTech4Good are great places to start.

Third, connect “digitally” with your children.  As counterproductive as this may sound, we have to be engaged with our children where the problem exists.  We recommend you start with FamPlan.

Fourth, go to extremes to create opportunities for Relationships & Experiences.

And finally, share everything you learn with your children.  They will benefit from your efforts more than you can imagine!

This is Part 1 of a 5 Part Series on Kids & Social Media