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Proudly Supporting

Not Sure About Your Child Using Social Media? This Mum is Okay With It.

By Lana Hirschowitz - 20th August 2013

One of the favourite memories from my teenage years was coming home at 16 years old to find that my mother had arranged to have my very own phone line installed INTO MY BEDROOM. I can picture my room and the hideous beige/yellow colour of the phone taking up half my desk (seriously what was it with the colours they used for phones in the 1980’s?), I can feel the huge rush of excitement I felt at my new-found freedom and independence, and now as a mother, I can almost imagine how thrilled my mother was at my excitement.

Having my own landline was a BIG THING. It meant I could be on the phone for ages without my mother begging me to give her a chance to use the phone herself or worse, tell me to get off the phone because she was expecting a call. Remember there was a time where we had neither call waiting nor mobile phones.

Talking on the phone to my friends was just one of the ways I had of communicating with my peer group. Writing notes that we passed under the desk was the other and talking face-to-face. And that was it.

There was no Facebook or Twitter, Skype, Instagram, Kik, Snapchat or text. Very different from my child who is four years younger than I was when I got my very own landline.

But I remember that day when I got my phone and I remember that feeling of freedom at being allowed to connect with my friends. I know how important it is for my son to feel the same way. He just doesn’t use the phone to make calls. And he certainly doesn’t pass written notes. He thinks he’s way too cool for that – why write on paper when you can talk online?

Instead he’s all over social media like a rash, it’s second nature for him to be attached to his friends at the touch of a screen. I'ts not a matter of whether he’s engaging but rather how he’s doing it.

This attachment to social media often gets a bad rap amongst parents and sometimes deservedly so. We’ve all read stories of internet stalkers and tales of paedophiles grooming children online are spread so fast they almost seem common place. Even though they aren’t.

But I can’t (and don’t) believe that the world is a bad place where people are trying to connect with 12-year-olds in order to seduce them. Or worse. Why stop him from talking with his friends instead of teaching him who he can and can’t talk to, who is safe, who is best left unanswered and who he should alert me to.

Yes, he may encounter strangers online – just like I met strangers on my walk to and from school every day but they are not all out to get him. And I can see who he is talking to online. I can’t see who he’s talking to on the walk home from school.

We read horrific accounts of cyber bullying and point the finger at social media. But bullying happened before the internet. Remember school? The reach may be bigger now and the effects more widely reported. I am not undermining the hideous reality of trolls but I think it would be naïve to think that relentless, continued and persistent bullying didn’t take place before the internet when there was no 'block and delete'.

I hear stories about popularity contests on Instagram and I am grateful that I have access to this same technology so I can talk to my son about it. I know that in the 1980s at my primary school there were popularity contests too and just because they weren’t online doesn’t mean they weren’t just as damaging and cruel. We just didn’t tell our mothers and it certainly wasn’t reported in the media.

I’m going to stick up for 2013 here and the transparency of social media. If my son has gone out with friends, I’m more than likely about to see what they’re doing on Instagram, if he’s commenting on someone’s status it comes up on my Facebook feed. Every conversation he has is being more or less transcribed and I have access to every word of it should I need to talk to him through it.

He is only 12 and he knows that I have access to all his accounts and I am not naïve enough to think that this wont change as he gets older. But when he’s older it wont be appropriate for me to be tuning into his conversations and by then he’ll have learned how to handle himself online. He’ll know that the channel of communication with me is open and he wont to be naïve enough to think that if he puts something online it can’t be found.

It never happened with private phone calls and letters passed under the desk. I think back to my days as a teen and how little my parents knew about what I was going through… it makes me shudder. It makes me happy I am able to communicate with my own child in the same world he is communicating in.

I am not afraid of social media, I use it every day. So does my son. And I’m okay with that.

Are your kids on social media? Are you okay with it?

Editor's note: For a different point of view about children using social media, read this blog on our site, warning against unecessary exposure to social and emotional harm.

Image from freedigitalphotos.net
This blog is reproduced with permission from www.sharpestpencil.com.au

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