Do you remember what it was like before social media, smartphones, I-Touches, and other technological advances? If you are 18 or older, most likely the answer is yes.
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I cherish how it has allowed me to reconnect with people. I have met others through Facebook groups and this blog and following other’s social media has led me to articles I may not have otherwise found.
In my opinion, one of the largest downsides of social media is the portrayal of the “perfect” image, family, job, or lifestyle. I know no one is perfect. In fact, perfection is a myth. I am an adult and recognize these truths but I still get sucked into this thought process, at times. How are children, teenagers, and young adults supposed to handle all the images thrown at them?
Little Miss had her birthday party this weekend and we witnessed firsthand how this generation is bombarded with social media and quite frankly addicted to it. There were eight girls including Little Miss. The party was at a local hotel. They ate dinner, swam in the hotel pool, had cake, showered, played a game, watched a movie, and hung out before going to sleep. Half of these girls brought along their I-Touches and were taking pictures, posting to social media sites, texting with each other, and messaging others not invited. At first, I thought it was cute they were taking pictures and video of themselves. I did not think about posting to social media. I guess I am very naive when it comes to fifth-grade girls. The technology use was so bad I finally had to ask them to put their devices away. Some did not listen and I had to ask again. I was shocked at this behavior. Both at their lack of cooperation and their lack of social graces.
To make things worse, one of the Moms returned to the party since she was taking two girls home because they had early games in the morning. Her daughter was one of the device users. I had an internal debate trying to decide if I should speak up or not. It is always awkward reprimanding someone’s child in front of the parent. Finally, I didn’t have a choice.
I started thinking back to Big and Middle Miss’ birthday parties at age 11 and 12 and realized we never had this issue. Some kids received phones during the middle school years, rarely elementary school, and they were only used to make phone calls. Does this occur at all the birthday parties now?
As we were driving home Saturday morning Little Miss shared how upset she was about what transpired. She was hurt her friends chose to be on their devices rather than play a game or watch the movie. My heart broke for her. I explained how sorry I was for not saying something earlier in the evening. I never thought this would be the biggest issue at her 11th birthday party.
In addition to the technology issues she also mentioned another problem I had not encountered before. A few of the girls questioned who she invited and who she didn’t invite. I was appalled. I don’t go to someone’s house and ask why they did or did not invite someone? I can only surmise these girls learned this behavior at home. Little Miss and I talked about it for a great while. This was not the first year this issue has cropped up either.
Times have definitely changed. These kids are growing up much quicker than the previous generations and I do not think it is a good thing. A conversation has taken a back seat to the latest Instagram post or Snapchat If this is how all social activities in the future will look like I am not sure I want to participate.
I have always been very careful about not posting anything regarding parties or other events that do not include everyone. I am sensitive of others who may feel excluded or left out. Of course, we can not invite everyone but that doesn’t mean we should showcase the event for everyone to see. Once we were home and putting away our things I realized some of the girls were most likely posting to their social media accounts. So much for sparing other’s feelings.
I have discussed the pros and cons of social media with my children since Big and Middle Miss had their own Facebook accounts. I believe they have acted maturely and only posted appropriate items. We wrote a contract for each of them regarding how the account should be used and monitored it. Big Miss had an incident of “hate” on Facebook when she was in middle school and immediately come to us for assistance. We helped her work through the steps of reporting it to her school as well as other authorities. It was a very rude awakening to the cruelty in this world. Many feel they can lash out when behind a screen when they wouldn’t think of doing it to a person’s face. What is this teaching our children?
The suicide rate among adolescents has skyrocketed over the past few years and experts have debated the whys. Some have noted the use of social media as one of the culprits. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/suicides-teen-girls-hit-40-year-high-n789351.The schools now encourage students to bring their own devices to school and use them for “school research”. We all know they are being used for more than research. I recently read an article detailing an app boys use to rate girls https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/03/26/teen-boys-rated-their-female-classmates-based-looks-girls-fought-back/?utm_term=.8668b782f8e7.
What has our world come to when girls are shamed due to their looks? No wonder so many has body image issues.
I have spoken to Little Miss about the dangers of social media and explained why she is too young to have an account. I know we will have to eventually get her a phone and she will want to join the social media accounts but I hope she will be mature enough to handle all the negativity and images coming at her 24 hours a day. I believe when she is mature enough she will be ok. She recognized these girls at her party were not acting appropriately and I tell her, “sometimes we learn what not to do or say by other’s mistakes.” I wish she didn’t have to experience this pain but I guess it is inevitable in today’s society and part of the process.