Social Media and Kids from a Conflicted Social Media Junky
by Karl Bastian (a.k.a. Kidologist)
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I both love social media and fear it. I can’t attack it too much or I’d be a hypocrite I have over 10,000 “tweets” so far, and nearing 1000 friends on Facebook, but why do I still feel so lonely? Social networking is a part of my daily – O.K., let’s be honest, moment by moment, life! I do not, not, think it is an addiction or bad for me! (I could quit any time I wanted to, right? I just don’t want to!)
Quite to the contrary, it has given me yet another avenue to amplify the message God has given me to share. Unlike many who live their lives like a pin-ball game bouncing through life from one opportunity to another with no clear game plan, I sought God for a very specific Life Mission at age nineteen and have had a laser focus on that Mission ever since. It is written and defined and has enabled me to say “no” to many good things and focus on the Great my entire life and ministry (not that I haven’t gotten distracted and needed to get back on course at times!).
Social Networking has enabled me to expand this Mission into spheres that otherwise I could have never reached, and on a daily basis during idle moments that other wise could have been wasted… Relaxing? Reading? Enjoying my family or praying or… There I go again… the internal struggle erupts! But would I truly be doing those noble things every time I tweeted or updated by Facebook status? The simple answer is no. Social networking has enriched my life with friendships I would have never made until heaven! Now heaven will be a grand Tweet-Up!
But enter children into the conversation, and the conversation shifts. Is it good for them? Unfortunately, folks, there is an element of surrender here. Frankly, we can’t stem this tide – only steer it. Let’s look at it from a different or historical angle. How many teenagers DIE annually driving cars? Do we ban them from driving? Perhaps we should! Unfortunately, that will never happen. You, like them, were destined to drive. My preschooler is already talking about when he will get to drive. In fact, all he wanted for his fifth birthday last month was a REAL Jeep. So we rented one for a day and I taught him how to control the wiper blades and turn signals and let him sit on my lap and steer around the block. My own dad understood both the dangers of driving and the inevitability that the son he loved would soon be on the road without him. Once of the best things he did was take me out and teach me, not only how to drive, but how to slide and spin and control a skid. He had me memorize, “When you are spinning, you are not out of control, you have only lost the ability to stop.” This saved my life years later when my wife and I spun out of control on the highway in winter on the highway. As we crossed the center line spinning with a semi-truck plowing toward us and cars spinning in all directions off the road I yelled at my wife, “I AM NOT OUT OF CONTROL! I HAVE ONLY LOST THE ABILITY TO STOP!” And I control spun the vehicle in front of and around the semi, and back to the correct side of the highway, all while spinning. While God had a lot to do with it, for sure – my dad had trained me for this event, and saved our lives.
The point? Today kids are driving Social Media! We cannot prevent it. We would be fools to think we could stop it. They are in the drivers seat. But we can, and MUST prepare them for the spins and wipe outs ahead. They will listen to our wisdom and advice, and we can give them the guidance and protections they need to keep them safe. We can teach them to put it down. We can give them limits. We can help them find balance and foster real relationships outside of 140 characters and digits and keyboards. We can show them sunshine and go for walks and plan outings and plan in-person socials. We can help them stay real and remind them that we care and make sure they know they don’t need to turn to anonymous sources when they need companionship, counsel or help.
– Karl Bastian, Founder of Kidology.org
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