Saturday, August 18, 2012

Balance in the World of Social Media and Technology

My dearest friend Heather passed on a copy of Newsweek to me with the cover story "iCrazy" on it.  She said, you should read this and write something on your blog.  I decided I would.  I asked my 500 Facebook friends for thoughts and tips on balancing this in family and children.  I received 0 response.  What does that mean?  It could mean everyone is busy or on could mean everyone thinks I'm nuts...or maybe this topic is a sore one that overwhelms?

In any case, I'm still writing the article.  Any of you who know me well know that I am the odd ball minimalist in this area.  Yet I don't want to put my head in the sand...this is the world we live in.  I am seeking balance too.  At this point I have a very lame phone in my purse that often dies there before I use it.  I don't have texting, and my husband has a great phone with texting, but is rarely on it, and turns it off when he is at home or with the family.  It's more of a work phone.  My kids (ages 13 and 10) don't have phones and don't want them.  I think this is because they don't see us with them...and my daughter is like me.  She notices the excessivness that most kids her age have in regards to phones and texting and it bugs her.  Many parents feel it's a way of connecting with their kids, but honestly, for me, if my daugther has needed to call me, there are other phones.  Until she drives, I don't see the point.

So, I read the article.  It's scary.  Our children and their brains are literally changing due to all this texting, Facebooking and Tweeting.  Scientists are learning that the next big "Addiction" is to this social media.  The brains of those sucked in actually look like the brains of those addicted to Cocaine.  Scary.  It's increasing depression and anxiety in kids.  They see all this stuff on FB and feel overwhelmed and comparing themselves.  Then there is the impulses to NOT PUT THE PHONE DOWN.  They are wired to the thing 24/7 and with it FB and Twitter.  There is even something called "Phantom Vibration Syndrome"  It happens when you respond to your phone so much that you begin to feel it vibrate when it didn't.  Anyone else freaked out by this? 

Here's a quote from the article, "Research is now making it clear that the Internet is not "Just" another delivery system.  It is creating a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed."

What are the answers?  I don't think we just throw it all out.  Some of moderation is good.  What scares me is that I don't think moderation happens much in this arena.  I may be in the dark ages, but because I am not a major phone person, I am always appalled when I'm with my family somewhere and every single person besides us has out their phone.  I think it's alienating.  I'm afraid for the social structure of the future.  Are our kids going to be able to have conversations?  Scary.

In my mind it all comes back to an age old truth.  Balance in everything.  That's it.  Balance.  Anything that is not done in moderation is unhealthy.  Anything we take to an extreme is dangerous.  I'd love to hear thoughts on this.  I'm not hear to preach...and I certainly don't have all the answers.  Balance is the only thing that comes to mind.



Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you on this. I have to continually be "the gatekeeper" with my kids, because they do have texting, ipods, and Facebook. Wow, it's a struggle and I really appreciate your boldness on this topic!
Heather G

Shaela said...

I, too, respect your boldness on this topic as it is equally concerning to me as well. I think like with anything, balance is important to be aware of and is something that we are faced with in many of aspects of our lives; therefore, Heather is spot on in the fact that it truly also goes hand in hand with us as parents needing to remain as gatekeepers. For some it becomes a battleground however as children get older and seek further independence and socialization, causing many parents to cave in an attempt for peace, followed by comments of they "just want to interact with their friends or family so I set up an account, even though they aren't really of age", they've "had a busy day and just need some downtime", another is "I need them to be distracted as I've had a busy, long day", or to "just make them happy". I believe the initial groundwork of maintaining respect in the homefront and having honest, open and available conversations with your child beginning at a young age and continuing throughout is key in working out compromises and in creating situations where the parent as the gatekeeper is likewise respected and understood. Truth is the reality remains that we will still have struggles with them at times and cause them to be disappointed or sad by laying down or abiding to rules; however, it goes without saying that we are seriously failing our children if we give in to their demands, which is of equal concern to me in creating generations where they are given whatever they desire without any boundaries. One sitaution that I run into often is when a elementary aged child tells me that they they were up past ten on a school night on Facebook or their ipod or gaming system. I'm finding this to be more common than not, and I wonder why parents would think this was acceptable, but I guess if said parents are online into the wee hours before going to bed than perhaps that's where the gatekeeping system fails. Leading to me to another concern about the health issues of children and adults that are sleep deprived or cannot fall asleep on their own. Then there is the well known fact that we are our children's best role models and set the examples for them. How often are we visible to them and distracted on our own phones, ipods/pads, social media, etc? Two other soapboxes...(you have a way of bringing those out in me, LOL; it's a good thing).

Shaela said...

...and I realize some may be upset by the Facebook comment. I don't want to deviate from the topic or bash on a system or piece of technology. In our home, Facebook is not an option until you are 13, but a phone was for various reasons. So it's not about what it is, it's about how you monitor the time spent (balance) and set boundaries for your children, yourself and your family.