The Digitally Aware Parent: Your Kids Don’t Live on Facebook Anymore

Although Saturday Night Live is not necessarily the funniest show anymore (was it ever?), they do every once in a while come up a with gem that “hits home.” On last year’s show they unveiled a parody commercial which discussed a fictional filtering device that would mask actual posts and photos with ones suitable for your Mom. For instance, comments like, “Boy I need more beer,” would read “Boy, I need new dungarees” on your Mom’s computer.  Well, I’m here to let you know that snooping on your kids’ Facebook page is “so 2012.”

Why? It’s because a lot of them aren’t there anymore.  I learned this at home recently when “snooping” on my 14 year old’s Facebook page and found that he hadn’t updated it in months. No new pictures, no requests to go to the movies, no longings for some girl and no photos showing what happened at the birthday party we let him go to last week.  I made it clear, he can’t have a Facebook account unless I have the password. And one day when checking out the “messages” section on his page, found a litany of communication with boys and girls alike that said “I don’t like talking here. Text me.”

If you look at the latest demographics you’ll find that Facebook users are getting older and older. There’s a few reasons for this. One – kids KNOW we’re looking and those looking for jobs also know their prospective employers are looking, so they’re going elsewhere. Also, they’re a lot smarter than most parents in being first adopters to the fact that Facebook privacy is a joke. For whatever reason, we haven’t learned this yet.

Which brings us to the texting situation. According to new research, 22 percent of kids ages 6 to 9 already have their own cell phone. For everyone older – well, no research needed. They have one. I don’t care if they live in a tin shack in San Salvador (I’ve seen this personally), they have one. And they text. Constantly. Our family nights are sprayed by the constant text clicking noises of my 14 AND 12 year old boys. They have found that there is much more privacy (and instant response) to texting friends. As for photos, they text those too, AND post them on Instagram, which ironically is now owned by Facebook. So what’s the problem?

Well, there’s the extreme issue of “sexting,” and sharing of inappropriate pictures. Then there’s the bold and sometimes sexual statements of a boy AND girl going through “the change” when the boy has one thing on his mind and some girls are willing to say (and do) lots of stupid things to hook him. They develop relationships built on fantasy and infatuation, which texting sends them into faster than a test dummy into a wall during an auto collision test. It’s dangerous, and as parents we need to be aware.

The other issue is the isolation it creates. My kids text in the living room, in their bedrooms, in the car, in the movie theatre line and yes, at school. The end result? “Lack of Attention Theatre,” which leads to a drop in grades, distracted relational activity with the family and a forced isolation that’s predicated on reaching out to people they rarely actually talk to in person.

I asked one of my sons recently why he didn’t just pick up the phone and talk to the friend he was texting and said “I hate talking on the phone. This is better.” Don’t believe me? Look at your child’s cell minutes used plummet on your bill while the amount of texts rise disproportionately. Go ahead.

Our response as parents must be simple. If you care about the family dynamic, make a couple of changes in the home. We’ve done it. In my next article I’ll share a list of ideas to implement in an effort to “bring the kids back home.”

Mark Gilman is a married father of five, ages 28-12 and a member of the Enough Is Enough Advisory Board. He also owns a marketing and communications company based in the Detroit area (www.decusstrategy.com). He can be reached at mark@decusllc.com.

 

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