What a Wonderful World

 

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.

AlphaInSnow2WWW 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.

AlphaInSnowWWW What a Wonderful World

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?

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Comments Make Me Geek Out

  1. I don’t even want to think about what will be happening on the WWW when my girls are old enough! I like your son’s version much better, too!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted..Wanderlust: Guest Post at Tamara (Like) CameraMy Profile

    • I know, Nicole – everything changes so fast. Who knows what will be the next big thing?
      I am sort of thankful for blogging in that I do hear about new social media trends and platforms more than I used to. I think it is good to stay informed.

  2. I love how you’re handling this Kim, and you know what? With the kind of mother you are, those nasty words and ill meaning comments that he may encounter one day won’t hurt him half as much as they could – because of the loving foundation that you’re giving him.
    ilene recently posted..SignsMy Profile

    • Thank you so much, Ilene. I hope that he will be strong in the face of that judgement if and when it comes his way. I wish the web was more like his vision.

  3. Kim, you’re an incredible Mom. I’m so glad I’m not touching this issue for a few years at least. The internet is incredible, especially for someone like you and I who know how to limit our time (okay, maybe not) and who knows what parameters are safe and wonderful… but the Internet is so big and vast and it is so much easier to be nasty and vile on it. I hope all of our children make good internet choices, and I can tell you’re helping your biggest boy in that direction.
    Laura recently posted..The Fear in the FundraisingMy Profile

    • I hope to help him navigate it. It is vast – even when you know the scope of it and what is out there. I guess all I can do is keep the conversation going, and hope it all stays with him when he needs it. :)

  4. Oh, I know it’s just a few short years (or maybe April!) away and I’m holding it off for all the reasons you said. I don’t want everything they say, feel, believe judged. Social media is some times too much for me at this age, I can’t imagine the pressure at 10 or 11 or 44.

    this was really thoughtful and beautiful , thank you Kim. (agreeing to wait just a little bit longer)

    • I am glad I have some more time before it happens for him. I think there will be many conversations between now and then – and many, many more after he is online. It is a lot of pressure. I can only imagine what it is like for teens – so different from when I was a teenager.

  5. I adore this post. Eddie is FOUR and he asks about The Facebook. He has no idea what it is. He doesn’t really know what I do other than I write stories and people read them and they go on The Facebook and that there are games on The Facebook that other kids talk about. I’m pretty sure Internet and Facebook are the same thing in his mind.

    I wish there was a way to keep them innocent forever. Sigh.
    Katie recently posted..Erin Asks Away!My Profile

    • I wish that were possible, too. I’d like for them to see the stories and games and funny videos and leave the other stuff. I am glad I have time for more conversations before it is upon us.

  6. My kids are NOT on social media. Cady has her own laptop, but I watch what she is doing on it, and she has her own email, but it was only so I could set up her own iTunes account. She never checks and has probably forgotten she even has it. I have passwords and administrator control of everything.
    Jennifer recently posted..#AskAwayFridayMy Profile

    • That sounds a lot like what we do with our oldest, Jennifer. He has a tablet that he plays games on and a small notebook. I know it is a stage that he is looking forward to – like all stages as we grow, I guess – but I confess I am in no hurry. :)

  7. I like his version of social media best, too. It is sad that it really isn’t just a fun place, there is always bullying and things you don’t want them to have to see. And even without those, there is that pressure to have people “like” things and having self worth wrapped up in that. *shiver* Having a teenager that is on Instagram (the kids here aren’t at all interested in FB), it’s just…blah. I’m so glad we didn’t have to grow up with this stuff. It’s hard. I wish our kids didn’t, honestly. –Lisa

    • Yes, Lisa – the self esteem that gets wrapped up in the likes and things, not just the judgement. Ugh. It is so much pressure.

      • Good point, Lisa. Social media has certainly changed the way all of us—adults included!—define and evaluate ourselves. Just look at blogging: I’m sure many bloggers feel ups and downs based on their comments and page views. How we protect our children from this kind of superficial self-judging is a really important question!
        Katie @ Pick Any Two recently posted..Fifty Percent of Women Have Never Done WHAT?My Profile

        • I agree! And it is true – we feel validated when we receive comments and likes on our posts and the things we put out there on social media. But we need to let them know the importance of the other messages we receive from family and friends in our everyday lives – along with our own judgement.
          I appreciate you stopping by, Katie!

  8. Frances’ school uses a social media site geared towards teachers and students. She is supposed to use it to respond to discussion questions, but there is also a chat function. There are limited classmates enrolled in her session and they never seem to be on at the same time, but I have seen her leave long, annoying messages with lots of smiley faces and exclamation marks. I feel the need to teach her “how not to be annoying on the Internet.” We haven’t started the conversation about her getting a facebook page yet, but I know that’s coming soon. Middle school is next year! Ugh!
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted..#AskAwayFriday with Lisa from The Golden SpoonsMy Profile

    • They are doing more things on computers in his class this year, too. So I know the education is happening there, too. It just seems to be happening so fast. And he is so eager to explore more online because it is just so wonderful.

  9. www –> What a wonderful World: Love that!

    My two have not asked for Facebook or Twitter. I think it’s because they think it’s for old people like their parents. That’s okay with me.

    They have instagram. But there are rules. The www is definitely a full time job when kids are involved.
    Andrea recently posted..As ChargedMy Profile

    • You know, when I was writing this post, I wasn’t thinking too much about Instagram – but I should have been. And yes, I can see that the www will be an ongoing lesson over the next several years .

  10. Great post! My daughter is still a baby and I have no idea what I’ll do when that time comes. I just remember how cruel middle school was…and I can’t imagine that cruelty being amplified by social media for her and whoever her classmates are at the time. I imagine if I do let her on social media, it will be because I set it up for her and know her account passwords and such, but who knows. What will social media even look like in 10 years?

    • I can’t imagine what it is like for teenagers these days, either. I plan to do the same with passwords and accounts and monitor what happens online when the time comes. And yes, platforms seem to change so quickly, who knows what the next few years will bring?
      Thank you so much for stopping by!

  11. My oldest is almost 10 and he does the same things, looks at FB while I am on there, checks out what I post to Instagram. And he did start his own hamster blog on blogger with 2 posts. ;) You’re right, currently, it’s all fun and sweetness. I do wish it could stay that way.

    And I think we could promote WWW = What a Wonderful World in some way. Kim, you may have started something here… ;)
    Elaine A. recently posted..We were not expecting you…My Profile

  12. Gosh, your son is a gorgeous boy.
    Way too young here. She doesn’t really know what Facebook is but she knows that “Mama has people in her computer.”
    And my people are friendly. And yes, one day I’ll have to tell her that not all people are.
    Tamara recently posted..Fly Away, Ask Away & Ladies Only Blog Share!My Profile

  13. I take his view on the WWW any day.
    Sometimes, I get so disillusioned with social media, I want to quit.
    Only briefly, because. I want to see only the good about being online. But yes, I do think that when the time comes for my children to get into it, I definitely want to be a firm, guiding hand as they navigate the murky waters.
    Alison recently posted..#AskAwayFriday: Playing With Light and How I Met My HusbandMy Profile

    • That is my hope too, Alison. Thankfully, we still have some time before he sets up accounts and profiles. I think we’ll just keep having conversations a bit at a time. :)

  14. My boys are on Facebook – my high school freshman never cared about it at all but this year he has had to pay attention to it because some of his classes (like band) use it for the main form of communication.
    Kim recently posted..Welcome, Elise from 9toFit!!!My Profile

  15. My kids aren’t old enough yet and I dread the day when they are. They, too, think it’s all fun and games and photos and friends. I don’t know how I’ll decide when they’re ready, but at least I have friends like you to pave the way for me/us!!!
    xo
    erin margolin recently posted..#AskAwayFriday With Katie SluiterMy Profile

  16. Kim, my oldest wants his own youtube channel so he can post videos of himself playing his video games, like he watches some other kids do on youtube. He’s all like “Mom, then people can subscribe to me and like my stuff!” And I’m all like…um, I don’t think so. Not yet. Not for awhile. That’s a different, different world to navigate entirely.
    sarah reinhart recently posted..Photo Tip Friday: capturing your child’s personalityMy Profile

  17. Oh Kim, Ugh. I’m so not ready for any of the above. You’re handling this thoughtfully nd purposefully — your guy is lucky to have you!

    (And I’m lucky to be a year or two behind you so I can learn!!)
    Galit Breen recently posted..Yes, and NoMy Profile

    • I do feel the weight of this stage – because he is entering a phase that is so different from when I was a tween/teen. In some ways, I feel like I have as much to learn as he does.

  18. I remember when my youngest kept asking and asking, because so many of the kids are on it before they actually allowed to, via Facebook’s rules. And we kept saying, “we’ll discuss it.” Then 2 Christmas’ ago, he was begging and we were going to give in, and my daughter let the cat out of the bag by accident…apparently he’d already been on it for a couple months and just wanted to be legit with us.
    PS. I just followed you on Instagram!
    Michelle recently posted..Tangy Sesame Chicken WingsMy Profile

    • We keep referencing Facebook’s rules, too. That seems to be sufficient for now – but the day is coming.
      So happy to connect with you on Instagram too!

  19. I dread the day my boys get older for this..,we just want to protect him from all the ugliness!
    Natalie recently posted..Being IntentionalMy Profile

    • I wish I could protect him (and later, my youngest) from that ugliness, too. I guess keeping the conversation going is the best way I can prepare him for it.

  20. I agree with Ilene. He will be just fine, protected from it all with armor you made for him

    My kids are still too young and I still keep hoping that by the time they are not too young, it will all have changed and I won’t have to wade through these scary waters. I’ll hang on to that fantasy for as long as I can.
    Tricia recently posted..Lovely little things, 3My Profile

    • The apps and whatnot do seem to change very quickly – and who knows? Maybe in a few years the online vibe will be different. I think that there is always hope. I am glad I still have a bit of time before it becomes a regular part of his life. I’ll just keep on talking about it until then. :)

  21. Now that she’s 13, the age the FB suggests/requires (ha! whatever), my oldest has stopped asking for an account. She is into Vine though. And Instagram (which we’d allowed her to have at 12, then removed it because of the Explore option (have you ever hit explore on Instagram? OH. MY. GOD.) I have no magical advice, no words to help you navigate this curious time with him. All I can say is keep talking about it, discussing expectations and behavior (his and others’). I think my daughter has a secret account on some social media that she uses only on friends’ phones or at school if it’s not blocked. I ask her occasionally if this is true, she says no, I wait a week and ask again (because even if she has no accounts that I don’t know about, I don’t want her to think I’m going to eventually stop asking).

    • So true, you just never know what you might see on Explore. I didn’t think about Instagram, simply because my oldest isn’t as interested in it at the moment. But it is so popular that I am sure it is only a matter of time. He is accepting of the “rules” of required ages at the moment, so I am hoping it stays that way for a while.

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  1. […] have involved Captain Alpha in my process a little more, though. At 9-going-on-10, he is becoming interested in social media and the web. He does his own online research for school and seems eager to take those first steps into […]