“Your mom and I have heard you pleas, but our position remains unchanged. NO SOCIAL MEDIA.” All your friends are on facebook, instagram, or snapchat, you claim, but we are not swayed. “How about JP, EH and BL? we remind you. They are not connected to social media. Nor are GD, HC, or UD. We are aware that your friends through soccer are connected, but we do not know them as well as we do your school friends.”
“All right, all right,” we respond to your heated rebuttal. “We hear you. You want to spread your wings and meet and interact with more people than you do in your school,” (an admittedly very small independent school). “Social Media, however, is not the best way to do it.”
“You’re right. We are older than you, and times have changed, but older does not mean wrong. There are healthier, safer ways to meet new people,” we continue. “Take soccer. You have made many good friends through your team(s) and have done so the old-fashioned way—face to face.”
It’s not just those friends whom you’re interested in interacting with, you point out, you want to connect with girls.
“How about the girls at school,” we counter. “Many of them have crushes on you. Why not pursue one of them?” You have known them too long, you moan, you see them as sisters or friends, not girlfriends. “What’s the rush? Girls can wait,” we argue. You brush off the comment, irritated that we have steered away from the topic at hand. Girlfriends can wait, you agree, but if you’re going to tap into the pulse of the broader world, you need to be connected to Social Media.
Perils abound there, my wife and I argue. There are predators in chat-rooms who impersonate teenagers. And there are troubles that young, immature minds can get into. We recount a tale told to us by an internet-safety expert who visited the boys’ school. The girlfriend of a HS boy sent him nude pictures of her. When, later, she broke up with him, he became angry and sent the photos to his school community. The girls parents contacted the police who charged the HS boy with possessing and disseminating child pornography. The HS boy has been branded a sex-offender.
I would never have shared those pictures, you cry, offended. I would have deleted them.
“Of course, we know that you would have showed greater kindness/judgment than the high schooler in question, but our point stands. Social Media leads to no good.”
You give us a charming, beseeching smile. “You don’t want me to be left behind socially, do you?”
My son might not always be happy about them, but these conversations are essential. Keeping the lines of communication open with one’s children is always a good thing. Such conversations can be illuminating for the parent as well. Despite my words, I grow less and less sure of my position vis-à-vis social media. There are certainly dangers that surround it, but most can be avoided with common sense. It seems to me that a parent should trust that his or her child would and could make healthy and safe decisions regarding social media. What’s the point of all the coaching/educating we do as parents if not to let our children interact freely with the world that surrounds them (a world that includes social media). I still have significant reservations regarding social media and children, and another year without it will not clip my son’s social wings irreparably. But the time seems unavoidable when I will relent and let him connect to facebook, instagram or snapchat. I can imagine how the news would be received and how I might deliver it, but I am not ready to have that conversation quite yet.