One of the most challenging tasks human beings face is to define their identity – who they are and how they fit into the world. While we adults may be comfortable with who we are, our young people face a more difficult task than the one we faced at their age.
Social media in all its forms from Facebook to Twitter has changed the game. Growing up in the ‘60’s and finding out whom we were and where we fitted involved defining ourselves in, at the most 2 places, home and school. We may have had one identity at home and one at school but those identities were relatively stable and secure. We were who we were and we had no need to change except if we moved town or school.
Today, our children face a much more difficult task courtesy of social media. Not only do they have to define themselves in the home or in their school but also they are under constant pressure to define and redefine themselves each time they log on. Once they place themselves on platforms such as Facebook, they discover that they have to constantly reinvent themselves in response to the comments they find on their wall. If they are going to stay relevant and have any chance of being apart of the ‘in-crowd’, they need to respond to what people say, be it positive or negative comment.
The result of this constant need to reassess and reinvent themselves is that they become fragmented and disconnected from who they are. The more often they have to do this, the more fragmented their understanding of themselves becomes. In the end they simply do not know who they are which can have a major impact on their lives.
Unfortunately Facebook does not regulate what is posted on its pages. The only people who can assist your young people and protect them are you, their parents. It is important that access to social networking platforms are restricted and monitored, that the use of smart-phones and media players such as iPod are similarly monitored and restricted.
The issues that need to be addressed include:
•Does my child need a smart-phone or would an ordinary phone suffice?
•If a smart-phone is provided, you can restrict access through the various settings on the phone before handing it over.
•Set an administrators code on both phones and computers before handing it over so that you can access data as required.
•Restrict the phone/internet plan attached to that phone.
•Ensure that no child under 13 is on Facebook (you may not be aware but it is illegal for under 13s to be on Facebook).
•Limit use of Facebook by setting time limits and restricting the computers on which it can be accessed.
•Have all computers in a place where they can be visibly monitored.
•Restrict use of computers in bedrooms to homework only or for a limited period but not directly before bedtime.
•Have a space where all electronic tools are deposited in a common area prior to bedtime, i.e. no phones or computers in bedrooms after bedtime and this includes adults as well as children.
The above suggestions are not designed to make you popular but to keep your children safe. My experience in other places, and at school, tells me that our children are at risk despite the ongoing education and information they receive on the dangers of social media. They need us to take a stand on their behalf and the task is not an easy one, but one we need to tackle head on.
If you would like to comment on this or ask further questions, you can do so by going on to Father Glenn’s blog on the schools homepage and posting a comment, in which I will respond. Monty will also be raising the issue on his Facebook page in the coming weeks: www.facebook.com/montythespoodle.