Teaching Socials: It’s Up To Parents
As the mother of two girls, I’ve spent hours worrying about how I’m going to protect them from the pitfalls of social media. How am I going to defend them against attacks from unknown enemies, protect them against assaults on their self-esteem, their confidence? I never had to grow up measuring my self worth against an algorithm or refreshing and repeating to see how many people liked me. I’m not an idiot - I see what it can do to my own mental health, my own self-esteem - but I’ve found myself stumped when it comes to figuring out how to deal with the monolithic beast that is social media.
There’s no handbook. I’m sure there soon will be but for now, we are walking in unknown territory. We are ploughing through wild lands with no idea what lies around the corner. We are on high alert and it’s making us edgy, tired and very, very worried. W are the experiment and that’s unsettling.
But here’s what I’ve come to understand: while we may be the experiment, we are also the experts. We have experienced the wrath of social media as adults and while that’s not always been easy, we’ve been able to see it from a standpoint with strong foundations. We’ve come to it as adults and, to a certain, extent, our pre-social experience helps us to see it for what it really is. Not real. Social media, and everything on it (no matter how authentic people claim to be) is a construct to a greater or lesser extent. We can understand that and, as experts, it’s our job to teach.
You see, we can defend them or protect them. We can sidestep social media and hope it never happens. It’s going to happen and their going to be on it. This pixelated alternate universe that we’ve created is going to get bigger and bigger and we can either accept it and recognise our own role in it, or we can bury our head in the sand and leave our kids unarmed and unprepared.
Like anything else, if we teach our kids to use it properly, to understand it, to be strong against it, then it doesn’t have to be the scatter fire that we think it will be. Like a fast car, social media can run them off the road if they don’t know how to drive it properly, or it can be the be the ride of their life if their taught how to handle and harness the power.
It’s scary and we won’t always get it right, but as parents we are smart, empowered, and aware. We can teach them, show them and be there for them. Social media is terrifying but it’s teachable and as long as we keep the conversation open we can show them how to make good decisions, to maintain boundaries and to understand what’s real and what’s not. Failing that, we can show them we are always there to help them navigate these choppy waters.