As a parent in the thick of things with three young kids, I often find myself complaining about their irrational, naughty and even just plain dumb behavior…because well they’re young kids with undeveloped brains and that’s just what happens. And trust me when I say I fully believe in the theory of little kids = little problems vs. big kids = big problems.
However I also think it’s safe to say that the equation has been altered even from when I was a kid. Nowadays I think it’s more like big kids + social media = HUGE problems. And damn does that scare me. Because I remember being a big kid. (Hell, I still think I am one half of the time at age 41.) And yes, while we had the capability of making decisions – good and bad – that could potentially alter the course of our future, for the most part our parents’ main competitors for influencing us were our core group of friends. And in my opinion that alone was some fierce competition. Unfortunately, parents these days have to fight against not just their kids’ friends, but friends of friends. And acquaintances. And in essence, every single other person out there thanks to sites like Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat and all those others I haven’t even heard of because I’m older than 10.
Privacy no longer exists. Bringing a few cases of beer to the middle of a cornfield for an impromptu secret party can’t happen because someone chose to broadcast it to the universe one hour ago when that person then sent a Snapchat invite to their friend who then took a screen shot of it and posted it to their Facebook account, and so on and so on. As adults we get and understand the potential plethora of horrific consequences that can essentially ruin a person’s life simply because they made one wrong decision and then someone documented it and shared it with the world. The possibilities are endless. But kids are wired to only think in the right now. And on top of that, they also think they’re invincible. We’ve all been there. We’ve all thought that.
I recently read an article explaining the reasoning why social media is indeed so bad for middle schoolers (and really all young kids in my opinion). And when reading it, of course everything makes perfect sense. But what makes sense and what works in reality don’t always jive. I sent the article to a close friend who herself has middle schoolers. To summarize her response: it [the article] is absolutely true. And if a parent can hold out against giving their kids that smartphone or access to various social media accounts, good for them. But she’s witnessed numerous occasions where her kids are now being left out of activities and ultimately even friendships simply because she doesn’t have access to Snapchat. How can we be good parents and do – or not do – something we feel strongly about when we’re fighting against the world? How can we hold steady against giving in to social media when our kids are coming home after school every day crying because they’re being made fun of for “not being cool enough” or not getting invited to something when everyone else was. I have no problem being the mean parent. But I do have a problem when my kid is getting hurt. So how does one parent this generation? I suppose that’s the million dollar question.
Looking back, my dad always used to tell me that it was easy for him to catch me doing something stupid because he’d done everything before. He knew what to look for and he knew how kids thought. Unfortunately, my generation cannot say that. We don’t have the first-hand experience with social media or even just the technology alone. I have teacher friends who have shared stories with me on the technological ways in which kids cheat these days. Another friend shared with me the app that she found simply in order to decipher all the various codes kids have come up with to keep things from their parents. Yup, when they say “there’s an app for that” they weren’t kidding. I suppose my next question would be is there an app to teach me how to use and/or find all these other methods that kids use to communicate with each other?! Because who knew that face-to-face communication would become so obsolete.
Parenting is nothing more than trial and error. But for my generation, the stakes have been upped exponentially. And for now I may be coasting along in the little kid tantrum years, but eventually my time will come. My husband and I will have difficult decisions to make regarding the use of social media and the appropriate age for smartphones. And I can only hope that when it’s our turn, we make whatever decision is best for our kids and our family. And if nothing else, maybe by then there will be an app for that, one that simply tells us how to properly parent our children. Because why not, there’s an app for everything else.