Technology and social media have become a significant part of our life. Recently, I learned some valuable lessons about just how they affect us and the opportunities they make us miss.
My 13-year-old daughter Noff is the youngest in our family. Lately, she has been struggling with not having a mobile phone to take to school. To her, mobile phones are very cool. Some kids also use them to coordinate pick-up times or for safety on the bus.
Unfortunately for her, she does not need it for any of those things. She wants to be part of the mobile phone in-crowd so much that she uses our old phones to play games. She struggles with not being like everyone else and this makes me struggle with my parenting.
I have some beliefs and rules about social media and I know I need to adjust them to suit the times. I have three kids and I cannot apply the same social media related parenting rules with Noff that I did with my first two.
This week, a few things happened that helped with my parenting strategy around social media.
- Noff sent me a video about a 14 year old girl who committed suicide after being bullied for “flashing” her boobs to some unknown person on chat. They were studying cyber bullying at school and this was part of Noff’s homework. I am very grateful that her HPE teacher invests time to talk about this.
- Just before her 13th birthday, Noff asked us what we thought about her having a Facebook account, now that she was past the minimum age for social media. We had a bit of a discussion about it. We all use Facebook, each for a different purpose. Eden had hers at the age of 21, Tsoof got his at the age of 16 when he found out that his friends posted all the party invitations on Facebook, and Noff had no reason to be on Facebook, or any other social media site. Being 13 was definitely not a good enough reason.
- One of my clients became a bit obsessive about his wife and started following every movement she made on Facebook. He discovered that she was talking to an old man who lived overseas, sharing her thoughts and feelings with him. He felt very exposed. This incident got so out of control that they separated and their 2 kids got caught in the crossfire.
- Another client of mine offered to help a female relation of his wife’s. They communicated by SMS over 3 weeks. The relative was very vulnerable at the time and started having feelings for him. He told her it was not appropriate, but she continued to SMS. When she asked him if he liked her, he said he did. When his wife found out, he claimed he never meant it that way, but his wife could not forgive him and left.
- At a networking event, a friend of mine told me she thought I was being too hard on my daughter for not letting her buy herself an iPod, listen to music or play computer games when she had company.
- The last thing that happened was that my eldest, Eden, who is now 25, who was not allowed to watch TV long before everyone had a computer or a mobile phone, who studied psychology and is now studying social work, sent me this video:
One evening, Noff and I were on our own. She asked me what we should do in the half hour before she went to bed. I suggested reading, playing cards and doing some artwork. She did not like any of these. The only thing she could think of was watching a movie or going to the computer (where, thankfully, she watches the discovery channel and “how to” videos).
I was a bit sad that my wonderful, talented, friendly, creative girl had no better idea for something she could do except use a gadget. I showed her this video. She watched it and I think it made her a bit sad. Instead of spending time on the computer that night, we both cleaned the kitchen and prepared school lunches for the following day.
In the morning, she got up just a little bit different. When she came home from school that day, she did her homework straight away and then spent time finishing the painting she started about six months ago.
I sure hope the effect of this video will last.
Send it to all the parents, kids and teens you know. Talk about the things we miss out in life because we burry our heads in the computer, in the phone, in front of the TV and even at home, in the prison of our own four walls. Go out! Set yourself free! Take every opportunity!