Cafe Witness

Friday, December 07, 2007

Social Media Fears Among Parents

During lunch yesterday, I overheard an exchange between a man and woman working together.

He: "Did you see the new ___ video yet?" (I forget the video name; it's irrelevant here.)

She: "No. Is it on YouTube?"

He: "Yeah."

She: "OH!" *Hand goes up in protest* "No YouTube in this house."

As she went on to explain, she has a ten year-old at home, and she wouldn't dream of exposing him / her to the evils of social media.

She: "Did you hear about that girl who hung herself because she was talking to a boy on MySpace?"

Me: "That wasn't actually a boy --"

She: "I KNOW, it was the PARENTS!"

So, yes, because of some truly asinine and despicable actions by a small group of people, at least one family (and probably thousands more) have decided to bar all forms of social media from entering their house.

Never mind that this selfsame ten year-old is probably, even now, surfing YouTube at school / a friend's house. (Kids won't be stopped from sniffing out taboos.) What's more interesting is that, instead of taking this opportunity to educate their child on the proper way to navigate a dicey situation -- meeting people online -- these parents have instead decided to write off a whole wide swath of the internet as evil.

I'm not a parent yet, so I'm probably out of bounds in commenting upon parenting techniques. But I am a child OF parents, so I have half the equation settled, and that means I CAN say this:

I would appreciate my parents much more for helping me understand the pros and cons, the dos and don'ts, of social media interaction (or anything else) than I would being told that "X group of people" are simply off-limits. (I might not realize the nuances of this difference until 10 years later, but it would happen.)

Sticking your head in the sand when something untoward happens may be a good short-term solution if you need to catch your breath, but it's a lousy long-term strategy for creative problem solving. And, unless I'm wrong, parenting seems like 100% creative problem solving.

Side note: Why do I suspect this same family, which bars their child from using YouTube, still allows him / her to watch traditional TV? (Notice she didn't say, "No *internet* in this house.) As though mainstream media is somehow "valid" content because it's produced by people with real jobs?

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  • Well, it does scare the shit out of me that while I was maybe 15 and exploring slowly loading nudity on my good ol' 28.8, my children will be able to explore such awesomeness as 2 girls 1 cup at an even earlier age. Scary, yes. Unavoidable? Maybe. It will make the birds and the bees conversatoin that much more interesting.

    ANYWAYS, agreed about the creative problem solving. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people that aren't that creative. I've known some growing up that weren't "allowed" on the internet...until they hung out at a friend's house. But in this day and age, and I know "old school" parents can't see this, kids need to be exposed to the trials and errors of the internet and figure out even earlier what's good, bad, and what they can do about it.

    By Blogger Sorgatron, at 1:49 PM  

  • Yes - ruling your kids based of ignorance and fear is certainly the way to handle a situation.

    Remember, it doesn't take an expert to have kids.

    The internet was created by and is maintained by humans.

    Humans are a multi-layered entity - the same good, bad, ugly, nice things you find in everyday life are also found on the internet.

    Why would it be any different?

    Parents, and especially lazy parents, are very quick to just dismiss or even ban something without taking the "extra" time to investigate for themselves.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 2:05 PM  

  • Being a parent now is - the internet can expose your kids to all kinds of things you just aren't prepared for them to see. But banning access to it in your home is like never teaching your kid how to cross the street. It's inevitable that at some point, they're going to need to do it. Better they do it with your guidance than out in the neighborhood, trying to mimic their friends.

    By Blogger Ro, at 3:31 PM  

  • Its the "forbidden fruit" syndrome. They will seek that which they don't/can't have... proven with alcohol, etc. before.

    Though not a parent, I was the child of overprotective parents that tried to shield me from the world instead of warning me what was out there and teaching me to make the appropriate decisions.

    What resulted was a tough early adulthood where my naieveity got me into plenty of trouble and bad situations that would've been avoided had I some experience as to what its like in the "real" world.

    By Blogger Erica Ortiz, at 2:28 PM  

  • Teaching use of today's research and entertainment tools, while instructing respect for the idea of reasons for adult ratings on things may help kids to decide for themselves in the future. I don't advocate 100% access (just because a 15-y-o can drive, or an 18-y-o can drink, or a 34-y-o could be president, doesn't mean that they should be, and historic judgement guidelines are reason for limiting such things) but access should be included in instructional guidelines.

    While my 6-yr-old is not allowed to watch The Matrix, we have used YouTube to describe to him techniques used by the Wachowski brothers in The Matrix (the kung fu scene, the correlation between Trinity and Fiona [in Shrek]), and how these techniques could be part of their directorial style, a la the new Speed Racer.

    By Blogger Alex Landefeld, at 4:16 PM  

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