Monday, June 1, 2015

Children's "social" life?

If you're old enough to read this blog, then, likely, your parents didn't post pictures and videos of you on the internet.  Not on Facebook.  Not on Instagram.  Not on Twitter.  And they certainly didn't "snap" your mug and let it play on Snapchat.

But we do. Most of us do.  I'm guilty. In fact, a May 2014 study shows 27 million women in the U.S. identify themselves as mothers on Facebook.  And we all post, post, post.

All my mom ever really did was occasionally embarrass me by demanding a hug and kiss at school drop-off.  (I didn't want anyone to see).  On special occasions, she wanted me to pose for a picture.  I obliged, but always got busy playing outside or riding my horse or dressing up my baby dolls, riding bikes and running free.  When those pictures were developed, I was always among the first to see.  

Now everything is seen by everyone.  Every kiss.  Every hug.  Every moment of play.  Every first-day-of-school photo.  Every last-day-of-school photo.  Every birthday, birthday cake, birthday party.  Every benign, mundane moment of life.  What we eat for lunch, when we workout, where we vacation, and who we befriend and even date. 

I can't even answer why we do this, so it certainly raises valid questions when it comes to our children.  What are rules are we teaching when it comes to what is sacred, what is secret, what is private and only known by our families?  Are we training them to think that if everything is special every single moment, then nothing is really special in the end? 

I recently read that children born after 2001 are considered "Generation Z," and they're called "Boomlets."  By age four or five, they would rather play with computers and smartphones than traditional toys, like Barbie dolls. 

I agree with that.  Just last night, one of my children grabbed my phone and before hopping on Minecraft, started looking through my Instagram feed (eek, phone grabbed back quickly, as my content is not edited for children!).  Then, a few moments later, the other posed with her neighbor friend and exclaimed "take our picture! put it on snapchat! then let us do a video!" 

WHAT?  At ages eight and six, they know social media.  And they know how to use it.  (disclaimer:  my kids DON'T have phones or social media accounts).

I didn't post what they asked me to post.

But it's a constant struggle. What photos of them do I post? What shouldn't I post?  How often should I post?  And then there's the fact that because of my work, I live a somewhat public life.  But should they?  How public should our children's lives be?   Because when they get older -because of my posts, our posts- they will have led a somewhat public life, too, one they did not choose.  That statement alone makes me never want to post again in protection their privacy.  But I know I will.  And so will most moms I know.

Social media comes down to a simple basic human desire: the need to connect with other humans, to be part of a group.  But does it really connect people?  Doesn't it do the exact opposite?  Do we lose emotional intelligence in the contrived sharing and telling of our stories on the internet and not person-to-person?  What's the mystery of anyone, since all is already known?

I don't know what the payoff will be for these Boomlets.  Or us.  Or what the harm will be for Generation Z having lived life online, in public.  But I can't help but think that with every post, there may very likely be some price to pay. 

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