A little while ago I was talking to a Dad who wouldn’t let his 15 year old daughter get a mobile phone ‘because he never had one or needed one as a kid so why should she”
He was not much older than me and yet he was still living in the dark ages and intended on taking his teenage daughter with him.
The daughter spoke to me at length about how unfair it was, how unjust and how her Dad just didn’t ‘get it’. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for either of them and I watched a very fractured situation self implode – over a phone.
This is strangely not uncommon. I’ve talked to dozens of parents who have a ‘no technology or reduced technology’ rule.
Many parents express their concern and desire to keep their children off all forms of telecommunication and social media for as long as possible. Fair enough, each to their own. However there is another point of view to be considered.
Three years ago, the Big Guy went and bought my then 6 and 5 year old boys their own motorbikes. I was mortified. They were going to become gun wielding, tattooed, pierced and leather wearing bikie gang members before they were 12.
No, of course they weren’t, but I honestly thought it was the beginning of the end.
Gradually over the first 6 weeks I saw how much fun the kids (and the Big Guy) were having on the motorbikes. I felt left out of the fun, the camaraderie and the skills they were learning – so without the Big Guy knowing, I went down to the shops and bought myself a motorbike. He was shocked and I was proud of self that I took a risk and tried something new. As time went on, I grew to love the bike, just in time for Mr 9 to outgrow his own and pronounce mine as his because “you’re always pregnant Mum”.
At the farm over Easter, I saw how skilled my now 9,8 and 6 year olds were at riding motorcycles. They do not attempt to get on the bikes without a) permission b) the right safety gear and c) how they respect the rules and communicate clearly with one another in order to stay safe. They’re testing the waters now, gently pushing boundaries but all within the confines of the rules Mum and Dad have set.
To me, my concerns about the motorbikes are similar to the concerns parents have about technology. However as we have found, the earlier you teach them, the more skills you put in their hands and the little by little trust you build is laying the foundations for less risky and stupid behavior when they become teens.
Parents who aren’t familiar with social media or don’t read the news online each morning fear that every person on the internet is out to get their children. Yes there are some bad guys out there but there is possibly a bad guy sitting in the food court when you have lunch too. They’re everywhere, not just on the internet. Parents are fuelled by a fear of the unknown because those very same parents are not on twitter, facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. They’re scared because they have no idea what it’s about and they claim not to ‘have time’ for such trivial things like social media and that internet thing. They’re clearly a shitload busier than the rest of us who can’t actually live without the internet thingy. This attitude is a little bit like hand washing all your clothes and then claiming you don’t have time to work out how a washing machine works.
The internet, phones and tablets ARE HERE NOW and they’re core to how we live and communicate. Importantly, they are core to the way kids communicate and learn and it’s only going to become more intense from now on. From Year 2 my kids have been expected to present assessments as powerpoint presentations and they’re learning maths on ipads. How can you restrict their understanding and use of something that is so fundamentally important to the rest of their lives?
I challenge one person to find a job that doesn’t involve devices or technology – even pub workers need to check online for their shifts these days, builders need to invoice, get prices and quote, and truck drivers need to SMS in that the delivery has been made to the required destination. You cannot give a child a tablet or device without teaching them how to use it and secondly, you cannot be naïve enough to think that if they want to know a piece of information or be on a social network that they’re not going to find a way and your call on “no technology” will just fuel the curiosity.
When it comes to social media, sure, restrict the use of the platforms until the child is socially mature enough to handle the content however be careful how you let them interact online. Asking for their passwords and giving them no privacy at all may lead to sneaky behavior behind your back. Judging them for what their friends post and not what they post can also lead to disaster because the old adage of birds of a feather stick together may not be true (does what your friends post to you always reflect your beliefs? No, didn’t think so). A facebook ‘friend’ may now simply be someone on the periphery of the friendship group your child hangs in, just because they’re ‘friends’ on facebook, doesn’t mean they’re BFF’s for life (look at your own friends list for proof of that!).
I know myself that I now only communicate via facebook with my friends. Those who aren’t online, completely miss out on invites, social occasions and general chit chat Not allowing your child to ‘ever’ be on social media could actually be more damaging to their self esteem and social interaction with others than you realize.
So before you say ‘no’ to all forms of social media, technology and or access to that interweb thingy – can I suggest to ALL parents, you make an informed decision and sign up to EVERY SINGLE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM, NEWSFEED AND POPULAR CULTURE site that you’re aware of and get a head start on the kids so that when they come to you asking if they can join up, the answer comes to you as quickly, as easily and as informed as if they came and asked “Mum, what’s 12 x 2 +10? Start Googling together, teach them as you learn.
We all make a point of knowing the answers to the maths and english questions but do you know as much about the real life stuff like technology, social media platforms and the new way your kids will communicate when they are teens?