Social Media has been both a boon and a bane in my life. Being a stay-home mum, who’s mostly home bound with the kids or otherwise shuttling around with errands to run, leaves me very little time to connect face to face with friends and the “outside world”. Believe you me, it’s been challenging. Logistically, it has been hard to find a sweet spot in my schedule for “me” or “we” time, if any at all. The truth is, I have come to terms with the stark reality that without technology, I might have very well become a primordial cave woman, stuck in the trenches of my own jungle.
Like it or not, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat(the list goes on), have all been ubiquitous features of modern digital survival that we live and breathe with.
This joke is a case in point:
Social Media & Me
These social media platforms function so efficiently to “feed” me information, updates or photos of my friends’ activity and help me feel more in touch with them in the midst of my grinding routines and chores.
I never have to worry about missing another birthday as Facebook reminds me so.
I am also reminded of “memories” of what I said in status updates yonks ago. Occasionally, a cute picture of my now grown-up kid crops up, together with mom-guilt regarding the fun and crafty things I USED to and no longer do when I had more energy and fewer children.
FB Messenger helps me to network efficiently. I can drop a text instantly in such a way that makes email feel snail-crawlingly slow.
Instastories show me live snippets condensed in 5seconds of airtime and I can “follow” people I like from all over the world without so much as moving an inch.
Image credit: Mashable
As a blogger and writer serving the needs of my clients online, I am further vested to read more widely and deeply, mostly from online sources and links.
I do confess enjoying exchanging quick texts and messages on my social media groups on WhatsApp that help me move the social pinwheels of my life, slowly but surely. I have multiple social groups on a myriad of topics and with various people that revolve around all my direct needs in life: education, faith, exercise, prayer, friendship, business.
Amongst a group of us mums, we joke and banter with one another like we would face-to-face in a cafe–except that we’re not in a cafe, but a chat group. And only in the digital economy of today, can we describe and identify with how an “existential and ephemeral space” like a chat group, can actually feel nice, warm and cozy.
At the risk of sounding like a technological luddite, how can this possibly be?
There’s nothing remotely welcoming within the hollow echoes of chat room walls apart from cutesy or pretty wallpaper we can choose to download…but how is it that we can actually connect intimately, deeply, and superficially all at the same time? Image: Cute Bebe Kitty
How is it that something that brings me such exponential good and convenience can also bring some equally dilemmatic and compromising concerns as well?
Social Media “Mom”derator
The dilemma started when I became a social media “mom”derator to my 13 year old who recently acquired a mobile device of her own.
I’ve purposefully played on the word “moderator” because it is undeniably and shockingly apt. Ever since my daughter started to be the first child in our family to be using a phone, we’ve have invested hours on end researching strategies to moderate her use of it, whether it is through reading and formulating social media contracts, trying out parenting control apps, setting time-outs and implementing privacy boundaries.
In doing so, it feels like we have unlocked the dimensions to a whole new parenting universe; finding ways to keep up with social media controls and up the ante on our technological backwardness!
Why are we struggling? It’s obvious that the same staggering convenience opens up the Pandora’s box to a host of other not-so-good issues that most parents would be or should be acquainted with: digital addiction, pornography, preying, extremism, scam & fake news, cyber bullying, pornography and even (gasp) online drug purchase. At Facebook Singapore headquarters playing with the humongous touchscreen
Thus, when I was invited to attend a panel discussion covering issues and trends in social media use and helping children build healthy media habits, I didn’t hesitate.
The panel discussion, entitled “How To Raise Kids Wisely in a Social Media Generation”was jointly organized by Facebook Singapore, Flying Cape and Trainium Academy, and supported by the Media Literacy Council.
Facilitated by Trainium Academy founder Mr Eugene Seah, the panel comprised the following panelists from the Media Literacy Council:
- Mr Alvin Tan, Head of Public Policy, South East Asia Facebook
- Ms Iris Lin, Head of Youth Services, Fei Yue
- Walter Lim, Founder, Cooler Insights who shares the finer points of discussion here.
Held at Facebook Singapore Headquarters, it pieced together some insights for me. Here are my key takeaways in three Ps:
1. Plug into Relationships
The greatest asset we can create for our children in the digital age is the security and solidarity of our relationship.
More than ever before, our children and teens are looking outward for affirmation and something to rest their identity upon. They are constantly saturated with all kinds of images, influences and ideas in a one stop multi-sensory click.
In a transient online world where things are here today and gone in 30 seconds, tangible real life relationships are what counts and helps them anchor themselves and balance their perspectives.
Parents need to set boundaries for our children and observe their online and offline behavior. We need to plug in…less into our devices but more into our relationships with our kids.
When we set rules and guidelines, we need to walk the talk ourselves and model what good online habits are. In managing their social media challenges, this quote says it well:
“Rules with relationship lead to respect.
“Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.”
2. Protect with Parental Guidance
Protection is not a bad word. There are so many things we can do to prepare a safe place for children to connect healthily online. Image: Kapersky Kids
We can start by using privacy settings on our computers or blocking sites with unsavory content as far as we can. We can use time limits to moderate healthy versus excessive screentime.
We can take interest in reviewing the kind of material, movies, you tube vids our kids are watching or keen to watch, and share with them our viewpoints on what is desirable, what is not and how to discern between the two.
We can teach them the lens from which to view what they read online with a critical eye. How do we discern real from fake? What makes this piece of news balanced and credible? Should we rant online? How do we use it social media positively?
The key thing is to educate rather than evade. Rather than merely setting limits, take a keen interest in understanding social media trends and bring them up for discussion at the dinner table.
3. Personify our values
Image: Media Literacy Council
The evidence is clear. There’s really no room for distracted parenting. If we have heard cries from our kids to “Put the phone away Mom, when I’m talking” and we rationalize or justify it as multitasking, , we might be missing the point.
We could be subtly rejecting communication and it makes our children feel invisible. Soon, they too might be drawn by the allure of media devices, and use them as substitutes for unmet attention and affirmation. That would be a sad, sad day.
Here are some pro-tips for us to personify the values of responsible media use as adults to our children.
Image: Media Literacy Council
With the March holidays getting ready to roll, let’s give our children a gift that’s priceless, and worth more than any data plan. It is the gift of our presence: by plugging into them and taking interest in what they are doing, providing parental guidance and personifying our walk so that they know we mean what we say!!
**The Media Literacy Council has produced an excellent online resource called Clique Click: Bringing up Children in the Digital Age which is available here.