Last Sunday, our oldest conquered a fear. He stood up on a stage with his guitar in hand, and he sang into a microphone. His voice was pure, if a little shaky. He was obviously nervous as he never cracked a smile in the three minutes he stood in front, but he did it. He sang his first solo.
I couldn’t have been more proud if I tried.
After he finished singing his song (a song that he wrote himself), he received a lot of praise, and he deserved the praise. He did a great job! Of course, as any good parents would do, we captured the momentous occasion on video…from two different angles. Later that day, I posted a photo of my handsome boy on stage on Facebook, and I shared our joy in his bravery. Naturally, friends and family wanted to see video.
I asked Sloan if he would mind me sharing the video with a few people. He immediately agreed, and I went about downloading the video, but deep in my heart, I had a nagging feeling that this was not a video that needed to be shared with the online world. I tried to ignore the feeling, because the proud Mama in me wanted everyone to see my boy’s amazing accomplishment.
But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this video needed to remain more private, shared only with grandparents and a couple of close friends who’ve known Sloan since he was a baby.
Our kids are growing up in the social media age. More than any other generation before them, these children have to navigate the constant pressure and need for attention. With reality shows, the Disney Channel, and the internet all pulling for their attention, today’s children are under a constant quest for fame.
They’re told that fame is right there within grasp. All they have to do is put themselves out there…all the time…and they could be the next internet sensation.
I don’t want this for my children. I don’t want fame for them, because I don’t think we were designed for fame. Certainly children in their formative years do not need to be worried about garnering more attention for themselves.
It’s no secret that I enjoy the perks that social media has to offer. I love Facebook and blogs, Instagram and Twitter. I love the connection these tools offer with people around the world. I love the good that is coming from these social sharing sites.
But I was 30 years old before I ever had a Facebook account. I navigated my teenage and college years in relative obscurity, and thank heavens for it because I can only imagine the number of ridiculous images I could have posted of myself as a youth.
I don’t want my children to live their lives according to the number of “Likes” they get on a post. I don’t want them beholden to statistics, and I don’t want them to measure their gifts and talents by the amount of praise they receive online. Even I have to monitor my heart, and my reasons behind posting online. I’ve pulled back a lot in the last few years, mostly because I knew we were approaching the age when the kids would take notice.
I don’t want my boys to think that every major accomplishment can only be celebrated if they receive cyber high fives from a bunch of strangers and acquaintances.
I don’t want my daughter to post duck face selfies online every time she feels cute, then measure her physical appearance by the attention she did, or did not, receive.
So I chose not to post the video, for no other reason than I wanted Sloan to know that his accomplishment was momentous because he chose to offer a gift up to the Lord for His glory, not because his musical accomplishment would give him five minutes of internet fame.
Navigating the online world of social media is difficult enough as an adult. It will still be some time before my children are allowed to tiptoe into these waters. My job as a mother in the internet age is to prepare my children not only to face the world around them, but also the world behind the screen.
This is serious work, indeed.
How do you as parents handle the world of social media with your children? This question is aimed particularly at you parents who are a step ahead of me in this process. How are you helping your child navigate these waters of the online world? I’m open to tips and encouragement!
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Right now my 5 and 3 year old dint even know what Facebook is:). Not sure how long I can keep it that way. They see me take pics and they know I “send” them to grandparents but that is all. I agree with you though and wonder what happens when the kids are teenagers and finally get a phone:). Not looking forward to that as I know a lot who post some stupid pics. You gave me food for thought on not posting everything they do on here though too. Sending some things privately. I agree that we all look for the “reward” for doing good or something hard but it is nice to not focus on that for once.
I’ve spent more time than I care to admit looking for that “reward,” unfortunately. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve started to make more of an effort to set boundaries.
Our first granddaughter is due in a few months and I am really proud of our “kids” for the way they are already thinking ahead and planning for her future. They are putting things in place to help avoid giving her a big social media presence that she didn’t ask for. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but we are all for it!
Also, I have been reading “iY Generation”…it’s about this generation and the impact that the internet has had on them. It is both scary and informative for parents, bosses and church leadership, etc…… You might want to check it out!
I will! Thanks for the recommendation, Karen! 🙂
Loved this post. It’s one of those that will direct my thoughts from here forward. Already thinking about a few ideas when it’s time to introduce the boys to soc. media.
1) choose a mission statement or Bible verse that sets the stage for everything shared. ie – “encourage one another and build each other up”. If a picture or post doesn’t edify, it’s not worth posting. Could detour self gratifying photos, boasting, or complaining.
2) make a trial period on a “family” page (either for facebook or instagram) where the individual adolescent knows all eyes in the family are on his conversations with the world at large.
I hope other parents who have walked before us will chime in here.
I love both of those ideas, Wendy! That’s a great way to give our kids a little bit of freedom as they explore the online world, while also providing them with some shelter. Something to think about, for sure.
Since our oldest does have a FB account and a YouTube channel probably the largest negative I have seen is the constant temptation to waste time. He doesn’t get too worked up about having a lot of attention or likes except from the few people whose opinions matter to him, but this is one of those parenting issues that requires CONSTANT vigilance and re-evaluation, tweaking the boundaries and coaching every play. My middle child is so sensitive I think we will have to keep her away from it until she is much older since she would be floored by any troll that came along. And our youngest is impulsive. She will need to mature a LOT before she even gets an email account.
That’s a good point, Jenni – I don’t think that participation in social media will have a one-size-fits-all formula in our house. Some will be ready before others, and some will have the maturity to handle it better than others. Each child will be monitored according to how they are most wired.
And the time suck aspect? Ugh. That’s a big thing for me! I can already see the battle beginning with the kids.
I don’t post my daughter’s triumphs for reasons of fame or likes. I post them because a) I’m pretty darn proud of her accomplishments and b) a lot of our friends and relatives live away from us and it’s one way we keep up on things. My daughter has a FB account but she doesn’t post on it frequently, and when she does, it’s usually pictures of our dog or something embarrassing about me!
I agree that it is a fine line we walk with our children and social media. I’ve been walking it since November 2007. I think you’re doing a fine job of being proud of your children and their accomplishments without it ever coming across as bragging or “my kid is better than yours.” But that’s not your personality to begin with.
Thanks, Kim. I will definitely continue to share the accomplishments that I feel are safe to share because, like you, I’m proud of my kids! Part of the sharing is simply a way to honor them for their hard work. It’s a way for them to understand that their Mom is publicly proud of them.
I think this particular instance gave me pause because I could see in Sloan this thirst for recognition. After comments he made about people becoming famous on YouTube, I realized he had the wrong idea for why I’d want to share the video. This is where I need to be sensitive as his mom and shield him from that temptation to pulling praise. It’s a tenuous balance.
I agree completely that the social media world is so complicated and dangerous for kids…. this is an issue that I’m paying close attention to and Janice and I are actually starting to write a book about it.
Oh great! I’m so glad to hear that, Susan! I will definitely be reading that book! 🙂
First of all – I LOVE your new site Kelli! Beautifully done and I am thrilled for you as you continue your life as a writer, blogger and novelist. 🙂
Thanks for this thought-provoking post. As Susan mentioned, this is a subject we are discussing a lot as we work on a book about social media for parents. In fact, we have been discussing the issues for a year, deciding if we were going to pursue the book or not.
Ultimately, the right decisions will differ from household, to household, child to child, and even occasion to occasion. There is a lot of grey in life — that is the biggest lesson I have learned in my forty years.
Susan and my kids have been exposed, to a certain level, for years because of our work at 5m4m. And some days, I worry about it. Other days, I don’t.
What I hear from your post is that your children will have a firm foundation of love and acceptance from you and your family. Inevitable, social media will cause them joy and pain, just like “real life friends” will lift them up and tear them down. The key is that you will be there to help them sort through it all and to learn that ultimately, God is the only source of unconditional, infallible love.
I love that, Janice. Such wisdom shared there. You’re right. Social media safety won’t have a one size fits all formula for all families, or all children. There will be a learning curve for all of us. It’s important that we are aware of how our children can and will be affected, and we set perimeters accordingly.
I really am looking forward to reading yours and Susan’s book!
And thank you for your kind words. 🙂 I owe a lot of credit and thanks to you guys for giving me so much opportunity to develop my craft over the years. I’ve learned a lot from you and I am grateful.