I’ve noticed that some people are abandoning Facebook or Twitter, or at a minimum, removing the apps from their smartphones. A colleague of mine was finding it difficult to focus in the present when with real people while his smartphone buzzed with new Facebook and Twitter posts commanding his attention. My eldest son disabled his Facebook account – he found that he was wasting too much time there, not getting to important things. We were chatting as a family recently about how ‘friends’ build up in Facebook and talked about deleting all those who aren’t really friends (or family) – I did and so did my second son – it reduced the noise level. Add to the mix Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, LinkedIn, About.Me, Flickr, Diigo, Yelp, Skype, Strava Cycle, Prezi, Instagram, and it does tend to become overwhelming doesn’t it.
However, I think social media tools are super useful for sharing, learning, and staying in touch, but users of these must learn to self-regulate their use. They must make good choices about what content they will engage with and contribute. These tools are not going away any time soon and they can be leveraged for good use. I like Facebook for keeping informed and in-touch about distant family members and friends. Many of them I see rarely so this is a great way to stay connected in some way. Twitter for me is my learning and professional network. I enjoy posting thoughts and quotes from books or articles I read and from learning events I attend. Other tools serve specific purposes for me in sharing my learning, knowledge, and ideas. It’s fun to engage intellectually with others around ideas.
It must be overwhelming for parents of pre-teens and teens faced with the deluge of the digital realm. My kids are in their 20’s now so the options and usability of social media was limited when they were young. They did get caught up in the Facebook craze and didn’t always use it digital footprint appropriate ways. I remember once, my youngest son unfriended me when we had an argument in the real world. I worry about parents who avoid using social media tools. It would be unwise for their kids to be in these tools without their parents knowledge and guidance. A parent wouldn’t give their 16 year old the keys to their car and let them drive away without teaching them to drive. Why do parents so often do the equivalent in the social media world? I believe every parent should be on Facebook, Twitter, and the other tools becoming familiar with their purpose and uses both for good and for bad. They need to have critical conversations with their kids about these tools, about what can go wrong, why they need a positive digital footprint, what a digital footprint is (mine shown below), that the Internet is written in pen, not pencil, etc.
I recently gave a social media presentation to a group of parents at the church I attend. I was disappointed with the turnout given the relevance of the topic. Either all the parents know everything they need to about social media, or they didn’t think it worth their time to learn. I hope it’s the former and not the latter.
Our schools are increasingly faced with more tech savvy kids armed with powerful digital mobile devices. Besides their homes, kids aught to learn practical, safe, appropriate skills and behaviors at school for navigating the social media world successfully and developing positive digital footprints. Embrace the new, learn its power, apply it for good!