Monday Morning Moms: Kids and Social Media

Today, more than ever, we rely on technology for everyday living. From using Google Maps for directions, to our kid’s school websites to get homework assignments, we are forced to use a computer or a smart phone or some form of technology on a daily basis. For many of us growing up in the 70s and 80s (and even the 90s to some extent), this has become a way of life, almost a seamless transition. We are not like our parents’ generation who scoffs at Facebook and rolls our eyes after receiving text messages. We may not pick up everything immediately, but we don’t really struggle to use it (you should see my father in law trying to send a text via the hunt and peck method). We realize that technology has advanced us as a whole on so many levels that we can hardly remember a time when we literally had to seek out a pay phone in the mall to get our parents to pick us up. (And if you didn’t have change you had to quickly rely your message to your parents while calling collect). Our kids are lucky to be living in a time when they can find the answers to questions instantaneously and they can stay in touch with friends that have moved away. There is no doubt…technology has enriched our lives in countless ways. In fact, it is because of technology that I am able to “speak” to you today; it’s because of technology that I’ve “met” these great fellow authors that are sharing the blog today.

But as much as we realize that technology has helped us, it also makes us wonder how technology, and subsequently social media, may be the downfall of our future generations. Join us as Monique, Hilary, Nikki, and I explore some thoughts and experiences about Kids and Social Media.

Monique’s Rules to Live By

Let’s be honest  – in a perfect world our kids would not be on social media at all. It’s scary and we don’t know who they’re talking to and we want to keep our kids safely under our watchful eye.
Here in the 21st century that is not possible.
My teen has Facebook groups for her soccer team, group chats on Snapchat for each of her classes and her birthday party invites were done via a Facebook group this year. I suppose I could say no to all that but being a teen is hard enough without being the teen left out of the conversation.
My rules for social media are pretty loose:

  • I have to know what media my kid is on and what her name is there
  • She can’t use any language, expression or share any photo that we wouldn’t want her grandmother to see (not that she’s on social media but you know what I mean)
  • I have to be able to follow her…truthfully that doesn’t work for Snapchat which is what the kids really use to communicate but it works for Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram. (Of course they can have multiple accounts and so you do have to watch the sneaky ones.)

That’s it.  That’s my entire set of rules. She’s a good kid and we spend way too much time together so I’m not too worried about her right now. I kind of know she’s not talking with a 60 year old man from Nebraska who is pretending to be a seventeen year old from the next suburb. Yes that does happen but not that often.
When I went to write this post I asked the teen her advice to other kids just starting on Social Media was and she gave me the following – if you have a teen it might be useful to them. I found it interesting.

  1. All images are not what they seem. Kids recycle images, schedule them from a few days ago or share later. So when you see a photo of two girls you’re friends with at the beach on Instagram don’t assume they’re there today without you…that photo could be from six months ago. Also some kids have amazing filter and editing programs so that amazing photo might not be as awesome as you think.
  2. Vague booking. Do not vague book. If you don’t know vaguebooking is putting up attention seeking posts that don’t have any specifics.
    “Why do some people have to be so mean?”
    “Why can’t some people say what they really think?”
    “Sometimes I don’t know who my real friends are.”
    This will get your attention, but not the sort you want. People find it tedious and boring. They will be talking about you but they won’t leap online and say “what’s wrong?” Just, don’t  do it.
  3. Captioning. Be careful when you caption a picture that you’re not inadvertently saying something that can be misinterpreted by someone and create drama. This happens a whole lot. Just think before you post. Try not to sound angry or passive aggressive, people don’t like that.
  4. If you are a guy talking to a girl who has friends in a tight group…screenshots of the conversation are being shared amongst all her friends. Yep, that conversation is being shared with her friends. Maybe not once you’re dating but as you’re trying to get to know her she’s sharing stuff with her friends so be careful what you say. (Boys may do this too for all we know but girls most definitely do!)
  5. Don’t use media to deal with conflicts. Don’t take your drama online and if it starts online – take it offline.  (See vaguebooking comment).  Don’t use messenger or Snapchat to talk it out or have it out with anyone( see the screenshot comment above) because you don’t know who will see what you write and things get misinterpreted.
  6. Protect your password. Don’t share your passwords with friends or frenemies. People can log in and say stuff in your name. We know some cases where this has happened with some pretty dire consequences so be smart with passwords.  Sometimes your friend will just write something stupid but sometimes kids can be more vicious than that and nobody needs the drama.
  7. Don’t worry if people don’t comment on your posts. Lots of people like stuff and don’t comment much – especially I’m told – on Instagram. So don’t take it personally. Lots of that is actually excellent advice for adults too so maybe the kids are smarter than we give them credit for.Find out more about Monique here.

Hilary’s Experience

As I sat in the dining room of my old house, the new owner filled me in on the goings on in the neighborhood.  “So Lainey had a party last week for her granddaughter because she graduated from middle school. She was so worried about what she would do with ten thirteen year old girls.”

“I can understand that,” I replied as I nodded my head. “I guess even with the beach and pool there was bound to be drama. How did it go?”
“She said it was the strangest thing.  A bus dropped them off so they all arrived at the beach together.  As soon as they entered her house they all asked the same question.  You’ll never guess what it was.”
“Um,” I pondered.  “Where’s the bathroom?”

“No!  That would have been my first too,” she exclaimed. “And it also didn’t have anything to do with food or a drink.”

“What was it then?”

“All the girls wanted to know was what Lainey’s Wi-Fi password was.”

I scrunched my face. “Really?”

“Yes,” she rolled her eyes.  “And then the girls proceeded to spend the afternoon glued to their phones.  I watched them. No one talked to anyone. They just were focused on those things. The only time they put them down was when Lainey forced them to go to the pool!”

I can’t say the story shocked me.  But I can say I found it extremely disturbing.  I am a huge fan of technology, and I am also pretty much glued to my phone much of the day.  However, I do know how to disconnect.  I’m able to focus people in front of me instead of just the people in my hand. I don’t think kids today do.  I don’t think they have the ability to carry on an actual conversation. I also don’t think they can appreciate the moment they are in because they are too interested in capturing it for their friends and followers.  This makes me sad. I worry what the future holds for us, and these kids when they grow up.

Has social media made us, especially the young generations, anti-social?

Find out more about Hilary here.

Nikki’s Thoughts as a Millennial:

I’m a Millennial.

I grew up right when dial up internet was spreading like wildfire in North American homes; I changed my status on ICQ to song lyrics with emoticons of hearts and flowers to follow. I had MySpace when it was ‘cool’, and that was the extent of social media when I was a teen.

And to be honest…I miss it.

I miss having one social media profile and I miss having to update just one status. I miss having one email address, and one home phone with one answering machine.

I miss Social Media being pleasant, with more light corners than dark.

Sometimes I even wish Social Media didn’t exist.

I’m almost thirty and I wish for simpler times.

Saying this to anyone born in the mid 90’s and up is ridiculous. They stare at me blankly and ask what’s wrong with me.  If I where them, I’d give the same reaction.

But, Social Media? It isn’t just for teens and adults anymore. Kids as young as eight use Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. Doesn’t that feel, wrong to you? It kind of sends a chill down my spine, and maybe it’s because of what social media has become these days.

It’s a cruel, dark place where once in a while we catch a small beckon of light from kind words or thoughts. It’s a place where we slut-shame someone because we feel safe behind a computer screen. It’s a place where we ‘compete’ with our ‘friends’ on Facebook as to who has the better relationship. It’s a place we post our politic views and get trolled for it, a place where no picture of the human face or body is safe.

There is no real safety online, not even for adults, so to give children the power of social media is just bizarre to me! Now I know everybody is doing it, and the bad stuff that happens on social media could never happen to you or your kid. Except, it will. Because there is not one person I know who has Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, that hasn’t felt the sting of nastiness from it.

As adults, most of us can throw a fit when we’ve been trolled or shamed, have a glass of wine and get over it in a matter of hours or days. But to the kids? Who are stilling growing, who are still coming to grip with the emotions they feel as they age? We’ve all seen what happens when the trolling goes too far, when the bully wins.

I’m not trying to bash Social Media entirely, because through it I have met some wonderful people, and I have even learned some great things.  I just believe that there are many people who still take it lightly, who see it as something that could never be anything but fun. And it definitely can be!

Kids need to be taught what’s right and wrong online; how to deal with someone’s opinion that contradicts yours, or how to handle someone’s spiteful words. Because we’ve graduated from MySpace to Facebook, and it isn’t the 90s anymore.

Find out more about Nikki here.

My Fears:

I have to admit, it’s a little frightening to see the back of my kids’ hands all the time…it’s like their facial features have been replaced with the back of their phones. I hadn’t realized my son had sprouted a whole new crop on pimples on his nose because I swear I didn’t see his full face for a week once. I know I sound like my mother when I nag about their eyesight and their inability to blink. I worry about them getting carpal tunnel syndrome and having neck issues from staring at the phone. And yes, I worry that they won’t be able to disconnect from technology and learn how to connect with real people.

But none of those things are as troubling to me as the harsh reality of the real dangers of social media…not the future implications to society or our kids’ health. The actual, at-this-very-moment dangers. The creepy guys sitting at their computers luring the kids to deserted parks and promising them staring roles in You Tube videos. It’s this generation’s “hey kid, I lost my puppy, climb into my white panel van and I’ll give you some candy if you help me look for him”. My parents drilled “stranger danger” into my head. I knew exactly what to do if ever put in a situation of being abducted, yet, the fear was in the back of my mind at all times growing up…I would have never willingly put myself in that situation.

Yet everyday kids all over the world are put in these dangerous situations and we don’t blink an eye. Is it because we think they’re safer in the house on the computer than they are out in the street playing kickball? Chances are, they’re not. We need to stop fooling ourselves into thinking that our kids understand the danger that they’re in every time they get on their phone…creeps can track them in all sorts of ways that make me shudder.

The anonymity of the internet is a big problem. You can be anything you want on the internet. You tell people what they want to hear…nothing is as powerful as that backspace button. And in doing that, you make “friends” easily. You could be talking to a girl who claims she lives in New Zealand but it’s really the forty-two year old janitor that lives around your corner and has been watching you. People feel like they “know” you…you’re not a stranger…you connect to people without even knowing if they are really what you think they are. And as parents, most of us aren’t as up on our technology as our kids (I have to admit that I don’t actually know how to turn off the ringer on my phone…my daughter has to do it for me). They can easily get stuff over on us…circumvent the safety and security features we think we’ve installed. They’re smarter than us, but dumber than us at the same time. Unlike that hypothetical van that scared the beejezus out of me my entire childhood, kids don’t necessarily recognize the face of danger anymore because it comes at them like a friend. They think they’re in more control than they actually are. This is my worry about social media…the stuff I don’t know how to control and how it’s becoming harder and harder to keep my kids safe in our own home.

What do you think?