I’ve had an interesting week with social media and my family. My 7-year-old, AS, and I were talking on our drive home from school last Thursday. She was reviewing her spelling list with me. I asked her if she would like for us to write a story that uses all of her spelling words. No kidding…Her response was “will we write it on my blog or on paper, Mommy?”
Will we write it on my blog or on paper, Mommy??????
So I asked what would be her preference, and she said “well, I’d like to write it on paper first, and then will you let me type it in my blog?”
We started AS’s blog last Christmas while at my mom’s house. We went to the zoo in Hattiesburg, MS, and AS took photos with her digital camera. Her photos are posted on her blog with a sentence about each animal. There is an audio clip of her talking about being at the zoo. This audio clip took about a dozen attempts before she said “this is Sunshine” instead of her name. We had to practice, but the practice stuck.
Last May, AS produced a video interview introducing us to her friend Mittens. (All by herself with no “teaching” from an adult.) She asked me to publish it on the Internet. You can tell she’s been watching iCarly.
She explained to me that she had to make the video 4 times because she kept saying her name rather than Sunshine. I’ve posted two of the prototypes.
AS is growing up learning about managing her digital presence and publishing her work and learning to a public audience. She has parents who use social media to work and learn.
In contrast, I discovered my 17-year-old niece’s twitter feed this past week. I was not searching for it; it popped up in the “Who to follow” pane. JL, my niece, is clearly very frustrated with her family – a completely typical, age-appropriate reaction. She feels grown-up but has to abide by the rules of the family. But does the world need to know this? So I called and asked if she knew I was following her on Twitter. I asked about some of her tweets. She asked if she could call me back. Smart. She needed to review what she had written in public.
She did call back. It was not a pleasant conversation. I have never had a sharp word ever with this child. I asked if she would say to me what she was saying on Twitter. Her response was an angry “I was not talking to you, Aunt Jill!” Using a very direct tone, I explained to this sweet uninformed child that in fact she was talking to me and anyone else that followed her. And, if I chose to retweet what she posted, she was talking to each of my 300 followers.
JL’s parents use social media to an extent. They have Facebook pages and connect with their family and friends to share photos, information, and stories. Are they “friends” with their child? Their initial reaction was to ban her from using Twitter. Through a series of questions, I coached them to consider if that was the best solution.
Do we help our children navigate through difficult situations, or do we leave them to fend for themselves? Do we want them to learn experientially with and from their X-year-old friends? Do we want our children to learn with and from their family and other significant adults? How can we guide them to becoming literate, responsible citizens? How are we doing educating ourselves?
We teach our children not to touch the stove, because it might burn them. We don’t keep them out of the kitchen. And, if they touch the stove, we comfort them. We help them fix it, learn from it, and feel better.