He asked me again yesterday.
“When can I be on Facebook?”
He spoke with a touch of wistful impatience – this giant little boy on the downward slope to double digits. He is now firmly ensconced in the tween – in look, interests and yes, the sometimes weary “I am not a baby anymore, Mom”-ness.
He wants to get notifications and “Likes” on things that he posts. He wants his own personal email account. There is unsampled technology out there that he can see and not yet touch.
I feel the responsibility of preparing him for that world. He peeks over my shoulder as I blog or post on social media. Since I check before I post any photos of him, he always knows when I am posting it to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram – or often, all 3. (Are you following me there? I can wait while you do that.) I know he can’t wait to dive right in and be social, but I can’t help but feel trepidation.
To him, the online world is rich in information and beauty and friendship. It is a place where we share stories and photos and chat with friends and family. I know that he could find treasures and facts about all his favourite subjects to his little researching heart’s delight.
Remember when Facebook was new? When it was for connecting with high school classmates and reconnecting with long-lost relatives? That’s the way he sees social media and the internet. The www might as well stand for What a Wonderful World.
If only I didn’t have to tell him about the other things that happen online.
I wish there wasn’t a need to let him know about the dangers of online predators, or about finding disturbing images and hateful words – but of course, there is.
We are already talking about guarding personal information and reputation – without delving into too many details why.
As much as I want to protect him from those who might seek to cause harm, I would also rather not have to tell him about the judgement that happens on social media. The online world seems to be increasingly unkind, so I am sure that it will not take him long to see other people – perhaps otherwise level-headed and perfectly reasonable people – leaving scathing, mocking comments on Facebook and sharing vitriolic tweets on Twitter. He will see name-calling and disrespect on a scale seldom seen in his “real life.”
I feel like I should tell him:
No matter what you do, no matter what you say,
they will judge you.
Your words, your grammar,
your views on religion and politics,
your stance on the environment and the economy,
your job, how much you work, how much money you make, your hobbies, your friends
– they will judge everything you put out there. And they won’t hold back.
I tell him eventually. And if things keep going as they are, it will not take long for him to see for himself. The idyllic image of the online world will crack and shatter – as another piece of the clay that is childhood falls away from his finished masterpiece.
I will have to tell him, one day. But right now I am OK with him thinking that Facebook is full of funny cat videos and notifications waiting from friends, and that Tweets are someone wanting to chat or repeat what you said to their friends.
I like his version of the triple dub better, anyway.
Are your children on social media? How do they fare with it? If they are not, how do you think you will approach it when the time comes?