Lesson:I recently joined social media full throttle as a means to connect people to my blog and start sharing things that have helped me in life. I wanted to share things that I have learned professionally and personally, with the hope that maybe I can help others too. As I jumped in and started to read what everyone was talking about and see what the topics of interest were, I quickly came to the realization that a lot of what I was seeing and reading over the course of a few weeks was pretty negative and discouraging.
I get it, there are so many injustices, so much immorality, so much hurt that people are heartbroken, angry and even bitter, sometimes rightfully so. The questions I asked myself were, “Is the way that we are using social media helping or hurting?” and “Is there a better way that we can use social media in our plight to express our feelings towards the things that are happening in the world around us?” Sometimes I think the idea of having the right to voice your opinion about anything and everything isn’t the best thing.
To give myself a clearer perspective, I decided to keep track of the number of positive and negative posts I came across over the course of two weeks.
After counting up my tallies and averaging them out, I determined that about 70% of the posts I came across were of a negative nature. I observed a reckless use of words, self-righteous jargon, toxic arguing, negative commentary on current issues and non-productive debating back and forth. On the other end, about 30% of the posts I came across were of a positive nature; something that made me smile or laugh, something that encouraged me, inspired me, or challenged me to go to a higher level in life or try something new. Sad results 🙁
Now you may be saying, “well you’re just ‘friends’ with or following the wrong people.” And you may be right, but my experience really made me start thinking and it led me to have a conversation about social media with my goddaughter, who is a teenager in high school. I wanted a young person’s perspective. She confirmed that most of what she sees, hears and reads on social media has a negative tone. 🙁 It got me to wonder, if this social media world is hard for me to stomach at times, how does it affect young people who are immersed in it heavily everyday. How does it affect their head and heart? My observations led me to write this article.
Parents pay attention! I know for a fact that very young students are using social media everyday. You would be shocked to know how many times I had to deal with a very serious situation in school as a result of something that started on social media while students were at home with their parents! Did I mention I was an administrator in K-8 school? Yes, 3rd, 4th, 5th graders and middle school students are using social media at a rapid pace.
At the end of the day, technology and social media are a part of our world and it can be can be a great asset to us if used properly and responsibly. Here are a few things parents can do to protect their children and monitor their exposure to technology and social media:
1-Put filters and parental blocks on your ALL of your TV’s and electronic devices: Call your cable company, ask your tech person at work, buy the software, Google “how to,” by any means necessary make this happen! Make sure you are controlling when, how and what your children are being exposed to on the Internet.
2-Don’t let your children have unsupervised technology time: Make an effort to make sure your child is using any computer, tablet or phone in your presence. Put the computer in the family area or kitchen. Don’t allow your children to go into their bedroom behind closed doors and use technology! Even if your child has been issued a computer or tablet through their school district to do their homework, parents should still monitor the usage. Filters are not full proof, so supervision should always be a priority.
3-Give your children parameters and boundaries for using technology: Let me first say, in my professional opinion, young children have no reasonable purpose to be on social media. None! Obviously parents have to use their own judgment to determine when their children are mature enough to handle it but it is a decision I would caution not to take lightly. When you do make the decision to let them into that world, talk to them about how to use it responsibly and make them aware of the dangers.
Application: First, assess how you use social media. The next time you get ready to post or repost something, ask yourself, “Why am I posting this?” Second, take an inventory of what type of technology your children are exposed to without your knowledge OR supervision. Make the adjustments where needed in order to protect them.