I don’t know when it happened. The world just expanded.
The whole social media thing, which I’ll admit, I partake in quite a bit during the week, has created new issues that none of our parents thought about.
This isn’t one of those “we only had three TV stations when I was a kid!” things. Nor is it walking uphill both ways to school or saying I had it harder. In a lot of ways I certainly had it easier. I had both parents and I grew up in a great environment. I’ll admit that.
Today, though, there are 557 channels (and still nothing on…had to make the joke). There’s not just the internet, Google to look everything up or email. We have iPads, and smart phones, the likes of which seemed only apparent and likely in the worlds created by the books 1984 and Caves of Steel. Sci-Fi turned reality, much like the Star Trek communicator created the spark of innovation that is the cell phone. The convenience is something I live by and adore.
But a commercial during the Super Bowl today made me think about things. The look of a man trapped in the world that is the internet meme, the cute cat and puppy pictures with “Epic Fail” videos and the reality stars the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian trying to vie for your attention made the guy near crazy.
This is the new world. I tend to stay off social media on the weekends. This is my time with my kids. My middle daughter is always texting friends but I’m informing her if she’s in the room with us it’s best not to have her headphones in. Go someplace else and be unsociable.
The connectivity and instant gratification of social media has complicated parenting. I’m lucky. I told my kids up to a certain age there was no Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram or what have you. Hannah, my middle, just got her Instagram account, but I had to show her how to limit the connectivity. I had to have a talk with her about how dangerous it is to talk with people you don’t know or let just anybody see what you’re posing. For the love of God . . . if there’s a photo you wouldn’t want me to see, don’t post it for the public to see.
It’s the 21st century equivalent of “don’t take candy from strangers.”
The internet has created a world strange and wonderful sometimes. It helped foment an Arab Spring in Egypt…then just as quickly tore it down again. It disseminates information the government is trying to hide when all other areas failed.
But it’s also the greatest time-waster in the world, too. Just because it’s funny doesn’t mean it’s important.
It also doesn’t mean that because you’re “friends” online you’re really friends.
It’s like the fear movies mongered before the 00’s, when “virtual reality” threatened real life. Robot avatars might take over. The Lawnmower Man might come get you. Information would overload you.
But in the end it’s not information, it’s numbness that can take us all down.
My concern is parenting in the digital age. How do you inform your kids that the guy online may be just as dangerous as the guy looking for the right moment to slip a mickey in your drink?
I ended up with the same reality my parents and their parents faced:
You just communicate. That sometimes is the hardest thing to do but the simplest answer.