I have a daughter who is in the seventh grade. I am grateful that I enjoy Facebook and that we are friends on there. Of course, she didn’t have a choice. But, I love it when she tells me via some application on there that I am her top friend for the day or that she is top friends with her mom, or even one of my friends for that day.

They are watching. What are you reflecting?

As someone that is new to Facebook, of course, she loves playing the Farmville games as well as loves to like every page she sees.

That being said, how she uses Facebook is going to be based a lot on what she sees in how I use Facebook.

Of course, for me, I am using Facebook professionally as both a networking source as well as for creating and managing awareness strategies for various clients. However, if I don’t clearly explain this as well as manage time spent on this, how will she know the difference?

Quite frankly, it may just appear that I am a Facebook addict that dreams of status updates and receiving a thousand likes per post.

What am I thinking? To the casual Facebook friend, I may just appear that way… anyway. But, I digress.

Certainly, because of how I use Facebook, I have a lot of friends on Facebook. But that neither is the point or is that which should bring me any sense of personal value. It’s the quality of the dialogue I have with those friends that is. Lest, we get sucked into a popularity contest that we can never win.

It should never be about how many friends one has, but about the type of friends one has.

But, in a fast paced world that requires one to be constantly connected, we need to be careful that it doesn’t lead us to constantly crave to be connected. Especially for this young generation who are beginning to truly understand what they think is the power of popularity mixed with our own internal need to be liked by as many people as possible.

Over time, I must admit that my obsessive compulsive disorder has led me to what would appear to have an unhealthy craving to be connected. But, as I grow older and wiser in the use of this new media, I am learning to shift gears, throttle back, and become more strategic with my use.

This still needs much more work as I do have my personal goals. However, I realize now that I am not only doing this for me… but for my daughter who is watching me.

Of course, we saw this coming, didn’t we? Back in the day when we carried pagers around, we would stop the world to find a quarter and a pay phone to respond to a page as if the whole world depended on us making that return call at that very moment. Never mind the date you were on or that you were at the dinner table with your family.

Nothing says what is most important more than ones own actions.

In this, we must get off auto-pilot and get on taking back the controls of how we are truly living our own lives.

Parenting the in-between generation.

As I discussed in my previous blog, the generation that is now graduating high school will have a unique challenge and opportunity. I call them the in-between generation. They will have the opportunity to lead both a generation that remembers life before social media and a generation that only knows social media.

While one is adapting to it, the other is becoming addicted to it.

This creates many challenges, but… if they seek to understand the two, they will be able to truly build a bridge between the two generations that perhaps will lead to a healthy balance of how one should lead their life.

What that blog has led me on is an internal discussion with myself as to how I will parent my child through this digital revolution we find ourselves in. What’s scary is that things are still evolving so fast that it is hard to keep up.

In this, I am not meaning with regards to new platforms, etc. that are releasing for us to download and use. I am talking about how it impacts how we communicate with one another.

Viral means Viral.

It was only a few years ago that I got really upset when someone had a question or concern about something I was doing and not only emailed me to tell me, but also carbon copied everyone else, both up and down the totem pole.

But, that was email. This is now the world of instant messaging.  Not to mention the speed of going viral and the reach.

One wrong message can have a whole lot worse effect than just carbon copying people within your employer. It can reach thousands in virtually seconds.

We have seen the effect of this with people uploading pictures online and sharing them via Facebook, Twitpic, YouTube, etc. While many of these are harmless and fun pictures, we have also all heard the horror stories of the latter, too.

This calls for responsible and disciplined use of social media. If your child’s friends are doing it, how long until they will be doing it? Unless of course… we parent.

We must be honest about this… it really is not that hard to see this begin to become reality and take root. In this, don’t be one that will look back and say… I should have, could have, or would have.

Quite frankly, as a parent, I would not let my child have a profile on Facebook unless I had one too. After all, we still are the parents, aren’t we?

Then again, that is the difference between being friends with your child and being a parent to your child. Though we are friends with them on Facebook, we are still the parent. Of course, this does not mean that we should be all intrusive and post embarrassing things on their wall. It simply means to be aware and take interest in your child’s life and talk to them. Don’t just message them. Communicate with them.

Communication via #SoMe #FTW

Which brings me to other items we need to be aware of in that Social Media brings a whole new way of communicating by way of a set of codes like LOL, FTW, BRB, BTW, etc.

Nothing wrong with this. I communicate this way, too.

However, who needs to effectively learn to communicate face to face, spell, use proper grammar, or know how to effectively write a letter to someone? Who has time for that?

We are too busy multi-tasking than to actually have a conversation with someone.

That was one of my favorite parts in speaking to those high school students. They all smiled and laughed a little when I asked them if they really thought they were as good at multi-tasking as they thought they were.

Just right now as I type this, I have at least 5 windows on my browser open. Really?

Now, it is simply an unwritten rule that it is OK to hang out with friends, carry on a live conversation with them, while texting someone else. Is this even possible?

But, isn’t that how we often parent too? We are so into our smart phones, laptop, movie, or Farmville crops that we rarely look up and have to ask our children to constantly repeat themselves as all they simply want is us to look at them, acknowledge them, and answer their question. Is it any wonder that we find our children doing the same?

Homework has been effected by this, too. When they ask us to help them, we say… Google it. Sure, you may not have the answer. But that is not the point. The journey to find that answer together… is.

Freeze Frame. Missing what you thought you caught.

Life is often spontaneous, therefore… we must hit pause on the moment so that we tweet it.

Who has time to enjoy the spontaneous moments of life when we are too busy texting or tweeting someone about it? I think when we begin to do this, we begin to lose something rich. Have I done this? More times than I can remember. But, in time, I am realizing how much I am really missing in doing this.

Just the other night I found myself with my daughter at a church service. While there, we were about to watch an incredible short film about orphans in Africa. Of course, I immediately got my cell phone out to tweet this when my daughter looked over at me and scolded me with the old “tisk..tisk” with her fingers. Good for her. She was right!

I put it away and enjoyed the movie.

On the other side of this was a humorous status update I just read from a friend who was at his child’s basketball tournament. Of course, it was scheduled at the same time a major football game was being played that had National Championship implication by one of our State University teams. What a dilemma. Not really.

So, like apparently many other parents, he decided to DVR the game and shut off his smart phone as to not receive any updates on the game.

At one point of the basketball game, one parent stood up and shouted out the score. Much to his dismay, the whole auditorium erupted in one loud “Shhhhhhhhhhh!”

In this case, these parents did the right thing in not wanting to miss what really was important. Well, at least all but one.

Does privacy really mean privacy?

Call me old school, but I still have a very private side to me. As geo-location becomes more and more part of the social media landscape, it has caused me to pause and do a double take on what and how I share specific information online.

Compounding this is also my recent delving into better understanding just how widespread the global child trafficking issue has become. Children aged 12-14 are the average age to become lured into the this horrible exploitation. Much of this activity can take place online. In this, I am not being an over protective parent, this is the reality and in this comes an even tighter discipline of both how I use social media and the expectations I place on my child with using it, too.

In a recent dialogue with a friend, who also is an avid blogger, they have decided to no longer share photos of their children in their blog. Instead, choosing to keep them on Facebook where they can adjust their privacy levels.

We have also read the various stories where people have actually made a racket out of tapping into people checking in to their favorite establishments. These days, it really isn’t too difficult to locate where one lives and tell if they are home or not. Just read their status updates, for starters.

By the way, do you know who your friends are?

Is geo-location going to fade away. Nope, it has only just begun. In a way, it can kind of be fun. But, just be careful and smart. After all these years, common sense still works.

Have we become old fashioned?

As a parent, I must resist the name calling from the young generation that says I am just being old fashioned by calling for increased balanced and responsible social media use. Hey look, we all said something like that in our day, too.

Sadly though, many of us too have been living life at such a fast past that we simply have failed to recognize the effect our pace has had on our children. Much of this has come for needing to hustle to stay connected, to gain a sense of relevance, and for many… to hopefully find work.

Social Media Parenting starts with me and you.

Do we value any part of life “pre” the social media era? Quite frankly, we the parent too, are the in-between generation and it will be up to us with what this next generation will become.

In this, we cannot forget that which where we have come. Each generation has a baton to pass to the next that will help them navigate through the many challenges in life they will face.

There is no doubt that social media and the digital world is here to stay. This is without question. In this, we best embrace it, seek to understand it, utilize it, but not be owned by it.

And there lies the point. The sooner we can realize that we too, are becoming owned by it, the sooner we can make the adjustments that will not just matter to the lives we live, but the lives they will live.

What kind of world are we going to leave are children? Scratch that… What kind of children are we going to leave our world?

Maybe we are the ones who have become addicted to it and we don’t even know it until we look at how our children are using it.

Take a moment and look… what do you see? For me, I see a whole lot of work yet to be done… in me.

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3 responses »

  1. Michael G. says:

    Very well said! There’s a distinction between keeping up to date with technology and being slaves to it.

  2. […] Social Media Parenting: Teaching Balance […]

  3. tOdd says:

    So true when you say “Nothing says what is most important more than ones own actions”.

    On a recent road trip home with the fam, I, too, found myself itching to post about everything. After a few posts I thought “bag it, this is ridiculous”.

    The very nature or fabric in much of social media is built around unintended cliques. Call it viral-tribalism, call it virtual-territorialism, call it what you want–we appear desperate when we respond with such ‘modern groupthink’. On the flip, Social Awareness (i.e. advocacy) is a beautiful marker in this medium.

    Thank you for the reminder of b-a-l-a-n-c-e.

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