This week, in my art class, we talked about Facebook. I have to say I am a bit nervous when we talk about Facebook. Some clients of mine experienced a big trauma when a member of their family posted something on Facebook. The post was the sort of thing that was so terrible, each and every one of them wanted the earth to open up and swallow them. They are still sorting out the issues and nothing they do will be able to remove the post.
Another couple I coached separated because of Facebook. There was nothing they could do to forgive each other for writing those things. You see, when someone says something nasty, it is painful, for sure. But when it is written online and the whole world can see it, the pain aches for a long time afterwards. In both of these cases, we are talking about grownups.
Can you imagine what happens if kids do it?
Some kids, unfortunately, do not understand that there are some things they put on Facebook that they cannot take back. As you can see, these types of kids grow up to be grownups that do not understand that Facebook posts are irreversible. They are more likely to do things they might regret, which they cannot fix. When I am angry at someone, I have a rule: "Sleep on it before taking action. Tomorrow things will look different". You know what? It works! But if when there is an immediate outlet, life Facebook, there is no room for sleeping on it.
Facebook can be a great medium. It is a good way to stay connected with people, especially with those who live far away. I have even managed to find friends from school on there and it has been awesome. But when we talk about expressing aggression, Facebook is one of the greatest parenting enemies.
A new study on the effect of Facebook on children and young adults' behavior, presented by Dr. Larry Rosen at the 119 annual convention of the American psychological association. Dr. Rosen highlighted the advantages and disadvantages children use of Facebook. In my opinion, the harm was greater than the benefits.
In his presentation named "Poke me", Dr Rosen described some disturbing psychological effects of Facebook:
- Teens who often use Facebook show more narcissistic tendency. Ouch!
- Young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of psychological disorders like: antisocial behavior, mania and aggressiveness.
- The use of Facebook distracts students from learning. The study found that middle school, high school and college students who check their Facebook often, achieve lower grades.
- Daily overuse of media and technology increase anxiety and depression.
In his study, Dr Rosen said that the use of Facebook increases "virtual empathy" which is a positive effect. However, I wonder if this can translate into real life? After all, kids are more likely to write things on Facebook that they would not say to someone face-to-face.
My children got a Facebook profile at a very late stage. Tsoof got his in grade 12 (last year) and Eden got hers when she was 21 (2 years ago). Both of them felt they had to have it because nowadays if you are not on Facebook, you are not invited to parties. I find this a little problematic, but that could just be me and my old fashioned "face-to-face" mentality.
A year before Tsoof got his Facebook page, we had a group of his friends here for lunch. They spent the morning playing music and at lunch time I asked them how many hours a day they spend on Facebook. I was shocked to hear they spent 4 hours on a regular day and 7 hours on school holidays on Facebook.
Do you understand what this means!?
This was very disturbing for me. I did a quick calculation. If they were like Tsoof, who leaves home at 7 and come home at 5, they would have to sleep about 8 hours in order to maintain their growth (10pm to 6am). That means they have about 5 hours left to do everything else before they go to bed. I tried thinking of all the things we do before bed and wondered where exactly they were squeezing in 4 hours of Facebook every evening!?
Here is what we do of an evening:
- We have dinner together. We cook and set the table together. We sit down to eat and share our day. We clean up together which takes us about an hour and a half. Sometimes, Tsoof brings his guitar and we sing, or Noff shows us her new dance routine, or we read something from a book. It is really fun. Would we give this up for Facebook?
- Most evening, when we clean up after dinner, we spend some time preparing food for the following day. That way the kids can get up a bit later the following day and take real food to school rather than sandwiches. That takes us about half an hour. Would we give up sleeping a bit longer in the morning so we can be on Facebook?
- Everyone takes a shower and it takes about 15 minutes.
- The kids have to do their homework every day. In high school, the recommendation is to have 3 hours of work every day, and about 7 hours on the weekend. The kids have extra-curricular activities in the evening about once a week: performances evenings, ice-skating, art, dancing. Sometimes the kids even took extra night courses. Which means the kids have to compensate with their homework on other nights. Would we give up these evening fun activities for Facebook?
- Lucky for us, our kids are smart and efficient, so they get their homework done in less time than the recommendation. They spend a few hours each weeknight and none on the weekend so we can rest and have some family time. This allows us to get up late on the weekends, watch movies, go to the market, go hiking, go to the beach, the kids go to parties, we see friends, go the museum as a family, etc. Would we give this up for Facebook?
- Some evenings, we spend time talking to our family overseas. Thank goodness for Skype! We usually spend an average of 10 minutes every evening talking to family overseas. Would we give this up for Facebook?
- Sometimes we play cards. In the past when there were no noise restrictions, we would put a CD on with loud music and dance around the house. Would we give this up for Facebook?
- Some evenings, the kids practice their musical instruments. Eden practices for her piano lessons, Tsoof composes music and Noff practices her flute. All of them love music so they spend an average of 15-30 minutes every week at it (Tsoof easily spends an hour every day to play his music). Would we give this up for Facebook?
After my calculations, I realized that kids who spend 4 hours each weekday on Facebook do not have time for all those things. Every time they turn on the computer, check their status on Facebook or who "connected" with them, they must be giving up a lot of family time. There are just not enough hours to do all these things AND be on Facebook. Unless of course they are spending time on Facebook instead of sleeping, which is just as bad.
It is our job as parents to make sure our kids do not miss out on the most important things in life, like family time, feeling love and being loved, exploring their talents, creating and studying. These things will position them in a place that gives them choice later on in life.
Dedicating even two hours every day is enough to make any person a master in any area of life. Think about it. Imagine if, for a year or two, you spent just two hours a night learning to play a musical instrument, an artistic skill, a sport, reading about a topic that excites you, socializing or experimenting in science. Think how much joy, pride, confidence and advantages you would have from mastering something.
As I said, Facebook can be a great tool to connect with friends. And it is not our choice what our kids will master. But we can choose whether we promote and encourage them giving up so much in life in order to master 4 hours of Facebook a day.
Till next time,