Over the past two days, news stories of the “Momo Challenge” have been rapidly spreading through the media. This has led to much misinformation, unclear understanding and concerned parents, professionals and teachers as well as frightened children.
“Dear Amanda, I have a teenage daughter who is on social media. I worry about her self-esteem and her comparing herself to other girls on social media. How do I help her develop strong self-esteem in this social media visually driven world we are immersed in?”
Do you remember when Atari was the most popular, must have, latest gaming system? Or, when you got your first cell phone and it was used for emergencies only? How about when television ads first started to include that “www dot thing” at the bottom of the screen? Growing up, I can remember each of these instances and more as the world wide web began to infiltrate our homes and lives.
“Dear Amanda, I have two children: a girl in middle school and a boy in high school. They have become obsessed with the PokémonGo app. It has been all over the news about thieves using it to lure kids to areas and robbing them. I feel that I should make them delete the app. What should I do?”
In the age of social media, adolescents are able to utilize digital peer pressure to influence behavior of vulnerable teens and tweens. The recent internet phenomena circulating social media sites is the Salt and Ice Challenge (SIC).
“Dear Amanda, I’m working with parents that are struggling with their kids’ behavioral outbursts when they take away their device. It’s almost like they have an addiction to their phone or tablet. I’ve heard of internet addiction, but is there device addiction?”
When a child turns 16 , according to most state laws, they are ready to learn to drive. We, parents and adults, prepare them.
“Let’s take a moment to examine the concepts of knowledge and wisdom and how they relate to social media. Some people may combine knowledge and wisdom in the same category. While they are closely connected and work well together when used symbiotically, there are distinct differences. Knowledge is gained daily through assignments, tasks, and activities…think of it as “book smarts”. Wisdom is built over time and through observation and experience. Knowledge is something you can direct via your educational, occupational and interests path. Wisdom is the summation of the experience that provides guidance for what you do with knowledge… think of Wisdom as life experience or “street smarts”.
Children are born learners. They naturally want to discover the world and all it has to offer. They go to school to gain knowledge. As they grow we adults help sculpt their wisdom. We teach and model right from wrong and how to interact in the world successfully. We help them understand behaviors and consequences. We allow them to stumble and learn from mistakes. From the day they are born, our goal for our children is to have them accumulate a knowledge bank and then be able to use wisdom to judge how to most successfully use that knowledge.
In order to foster wisdom, in any area of our children’s lives, we need to be able to assess, redirect and guide our child’s choices as a result of their knowledge. In order to do this we must have the knowledge ourselves of each individual area to understand how to shape their wisdom.
Our children go to school and spend time with friends. They gain knowledge about technology because it’s part of today’s society. They gather this knowledge quickly and at an early age. They will rapidly outpace parents and teachers with knowledge of the technology through everyday use. Yet as a result of the lack of brain maturing until the age of twenty five, they do not have fully developed wisdom related to cause and effect of what they post on social media.
As adults we have gathered a lifetime of wisdom. We have learned from our mistakes and developed an ability to make good decisions. But we, as adults, have not kept up gaining knowledge related to technology and social media. This can cause us to struggle with imparting wisdom to our children and their online activities. It’s important for us to continue to gather knowledge about social media and technology. How can children be expected to gather wisdom from us when we don’t know anything about the subject?
One teen gave me feedback a few years ago about adults teaching teens about technology. They simply stated “first learn how to use it.” Good Advice. I think.
You may have heard of the tragic story of an 11 year old boy completing suicide after bad Facebook hoax was played upon him. My heart and condolences go to both of these families. As adults, we need to teach kids to tell us when they see someone posting about suicide, self-harm or eating disorders on any social media or texting platform.
I regularly talk to kids about apps. Over the past year, I’m starting to hear about Tinder with the senior aged kids. Part of my work is teaching them to recognize red flag behaviors, indicators for grooming and not going to meet people in person that they meet on Tinder (or other sites such as Craigslist).