My post today is different than normal, I have a concern and I wanted to share it with you. For most of you this may seem insignificant. But for some of you this will hit close to home, please know you are not alone. I want to talk with you today about the internet, more specifically social media, and our youth. I am speaking to you today as a mother and as someone who has worked in counseling positions for over 30 years, but I am not speaking to you as a law enforcement officer. I make that distinction because I think they know much more about this issue than I do. I do however, think I know more about it than many parents do, probably more than most individuals do. Over the years, the kids I have served have taught me many things that I did not see coming. How the internet and social media touches their lives would certainly be in that list. I would encourage you to think about how it affects your family members lives too.
Good vs Bad?
The internet allows me to have instant access to basically any knowledge that I want to seek with only a moment’s notice – it cannot be bad right? I mean, what could be bad about that kind of knowledge and access? It is my opinion that most things can be good and bad depending on how you use them. Can that access to knowledge be good? It sure was for me. You cannot imagine the hours saved by doing internet searches while in college. But how could this also be bad? Well, along that line, can I look things up rather than try to figure them out? I sure can, which bypasses skill development. It can also allow for immediate access to things you did not want your children exposed to. There are a multitude of concerns related to the internet, but in my opinion, the bigger worry is the use of social media. I believe we have missed how significant this can be for our children. I think that deserves our attention as parents and professionals.
Social Media Flooding?
I don’t know about you, but I cannot list all the forms of social media available to our children. But I have to be honest, I was a better parent in regards to this area because of my work. I would never have anticipated how destructive social media can be to our children had I not seen the other side of it from my work. I believe I am probably like most of you, I am glad to have the internet and to have social media. You will find me online way too often. I rationalize that I use it to connect with friends, and I do, but sometimes I neglect the person in front of me while chatting to someone far away. We need to stop doing that by the way, we need to start attending to the person in front of us, especially when that person is our child or family member. But that’s not enough, it is not just that there is too much time on social media. You might have noticed this, but sometimes people are not nice online and that concerns me.
Social Media Distress
Our children deal with peer related issues during the day from the time they leave the home until they return. However, with the advent of the internet, social media, and smart phones that changed. Now our children deal with peer related issues 24 hours a day. I would say from the time they get up until the time they go to bed, but many times our youth are interacting online while we think they are asleep. In other words, there is not a down time from peer related issues. Imagine what life can be like for the someone who is having problems getting along with a peer. You would not believe the horrible things kids do and say to each other. Maybe you would, I however have been amazed many times over. I have seen girls cry at the things once best friends now post about them. And others cry when ex-boyfriends post pictures that should never have been taken but now are shared with the world. And still others when their home life/family life is made fun of in a peer online group. It is amazing the things some kids say online, with no guidance it can become devastating.
Things You Can Do
It is difficult to think that we have children that are using the internet to cause harm to each other. Yet we watch adults do the same thing online over and over. Do not be surprised when our youth look at a screen and type hurtful things into it. To them, it is not a person. I know that sounds crazy, but most do not perceive their ugly comments as hurtful to a person. Many would say things online they would not say to a peer’s face. You know, kind of like adults. So, what can you do about it? How can you help make sure your child is not hurting others or being hurt by others? Well, in my opinion, start with getting involved. Know your child and their friends, if something concerns you address it, don’t ignore it. Encourage kindness. Our kids watch us, if you are using the web to “tell people off” then expect the same behavior from your child. Monitor access, kids/preteens/teens do not need 24 hour internet access with no intervention from you. I know it is your child and you can trust them – I do too, but I don’t trust everyone, monitor access. Personally, I think it’s a great idea to have account information, even if you do not use it. Control the hours the internet is available. You know there is nothing wrong with phones being plugged in on the kitchen counter while people sleep, it’s a thought. If you are concerned with how your child is being treated by others don’t ignore it, address it, help your child even if it means you have to call others for help. Above all, listen to your child. Put your own phone down and listen to your child. I wish I could tell you the number of times children, and by that, I mean children/preteens/teens, have said to me “my parents don’t care.” I know that you do, but they need to know that too. Spend time and invest in the relationship. Tell you what I will put my phone down and talk to my child, join me in it please – your child wants to hear from you. Thank you for spending this time with me – be blessed my friends.