One of the major gripes parents have with technology today is the time their kids spend on social media. The hours they see wasted updating, commenting and liking, scrolling and swiping. And yes there is certainly an element of time passing you by for all of us, adults included, when we get sucked in to the abyss of social networking.
We know there are some great benefits to our kids using social media and likewise many well documented dangers. But I sometimes wonder when I hear parents lamenting the scourge of social networking if they are making any attempt to understand why and how our kids have come to enjoy spending so much time online.
Could it be that we adults are actually to blame? Of course it was adults that invented the technology so we have certainly played a pivotal role in changing the way they live and interact, but maybe we have also led them to the technology by limiting so many other things. Recently I wrote about the 2 most important things I believe parents can do to help their kids online. One is the ability to constantly change and adapt, and the other is to see things from their perspective.
I dont think my kids are any different today than I was at their ages. They are certainly different in the things they do with their time, but not what they want to do. They want to have fun, hangout with friends, push boundaries, acquire more independence and generally see themselves as an identity separate to that of the family unit.
When I was young my best friend and I would spend literally hours playing in the back paddock. Riding our bikes around the edge of a dam. Attempting to ride wild horses. We rode roller skates down very steep hills using a gallon of mercurochrome on grazed knees in the process. We played cricket until it was too dark to see the ball.
I think my boys would have loved that too. They still play cricket, ride bikes, hangout with friends. But they chat with their friends online because they can and they want to. They play video games because they are exciting and far more realistic than Pacman, Frogger and Space Invaders. They do those things because they have access to all this great technology. But maybe they do that too because they don’t get the chance to socialise and interact as much as they need to because life is so busy and we are so cautious in our parenting.
It would seem that many parents schedule themselves and their kids so they neither have the time or the freedom to hangout in real life.
We don’t let them play out until after dark. We don’t let them hang out in a back paddock for 6 hours briefly returning for a quick sandwich. We don’t let them walk in the door from school and then go missing for the next 3 hours until we call them for dinner. Some do I am sure. But there are many many kids that simply dont get the time. By the time they get home from school, violin lessons, basketball or ballet, there is 2 hours of homework. Then we wonder why they want to sit and chill and talk to their friends online. Just hanging out. Probably not saying much. But just doing all the things we did, but with a screen. Because for many, that is their freedom, their independence, their chillout time, their connection and their time away form adults to be kids. It is just that these often private interactions are occurring in a very public place. It is for that reason that they require more help in learning how to socialise safely and responsibly.
We must remember to look at their perspective before we harp on about their social media use. We must have rules and boundaries too. But this is a world that we created for them. We wrap them up in cotton wool and we hand them a device and then let them run wild.
They want to socialise away from parents. Unstructured and free. Just as we wanted to. Only we could.