by Catherine McBreen
The use of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are becoming increasingly important in the way individuals connect with one another. In fact, our recent Spectrem Group research indicates that 29% of households with $100,000 to $1,000,000 are using Facebook regularly, and younger households are even bigger users of social mediums.
One of the questions we no longer even ask in our research is whether individuals use emails or text messaging. The practice is so common that we no longer think about it.
One of the hot stories of today is whether parents should be allowed to monitor their children’s Facebook accounts. Until recently, I would have leaned towards the privacy rights thinking that I have responsible accountable children. As a good parent, I was confident that my children would make good decisions. But some situations that have occurred in the last few months have changed my perception, and probably made me a better parent….and hopefully a more thoughtful individual.
I have a fifth grade daughter who, until recently, spent a more than acceptable amount of time texting her friends. She also chatted with them from her computer via ichat or similar mediums. I would look at it somewhat infrequently, but it was mostly typical kid stuff of who likes who on a given day.
A few months ago she became more distressed and started to talk about wanting to switch schools. This was surprising to me because she had always been very outgoing and had lots of friends. She started mentioning everyone hated her and her self-confidence was plummeting. I finally began looking at her phone and realized that every 5-10 minutes she was receiving text messages from two girls in her class, who had formerly been friends, telling her she was a “loser” and that “everyone hated her” and etc., etc. , etc. These messages would have killed my adult self-confidence, let alone my 11 year old daughter’s feelings.
I didn’t really know what to do, so I looked to see if there was any guidance. I highly recommend a book called Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman. One of the things recommended was to take away the electronic chatter until kids were about 13. She indicated that kids of that age are not emotionally mature enough to understand how serious some of the things they are texting actually may be. In real life, these things would never be said to each other in the hallway at school but it is pretty easy to be nasty through electronic mediums.
It made me reflect upon my own behavior as well as the adult behavior I see posted on various websites or via Twitter or Facebook. How many times have I said something to a co-worker or employee in a much harsher fashion via email than actually talking to an individual about various issues? Look at how cruel some of the messages are in various mediums whether it is someone making fun of someone like Sarah Palin or even saying negative things about people’s social or other opinions. What kind of society will we become if we continue to hide behind electronic media?
I am working really hard to help my child overcome this electronic bullying and to become a better person herself in communicating and including others. I think that maybe as parents we should be able to access our children’s accounts until they are a certain age. How do they know that some of the comments/pictures or whatever they post may come back to harm them in the future? How do we as parents teach them that how we communicate with each other has to primarily come from the ethics in our heart? We need to be able to say the same things that we text or email or post or whatever.
I think the new world of communication is evolving. Let’s just make sure that we all set the appropriate examples. People who make irresponsible idiotic comments that hurt others and are not based on validated facts are just that….irresponsible idiots. Work hard not to be one.