Monday, March 12, 2018

What to do about Social Media FHE

Warning: This post will be scattered and incomplete and proably won't convey all the thoughts that I have in my head about this topic, because I really don't have time to type that all up, but as the farmer says in the movie Babe "at'll do, pig."

So, let me just cut to the chase.

We let our children know this evening that we would like them to stay off of social media until they are grown...And I guess because we've been leaning in this direction for them for such a long time it must've not been a shock for them in any way, because no one cried or had a meltdown.

I mean, really?

I can only chalk this up to the gospel principles we've taught them, to personal and honest experiences we've shared with them about our own technology use, and good old-fashioned reasoning we've done together about this.

Now, being someone who has used social media for good for quite a while now, this might seem hypocritical, but really I've thought about it and read about it and considered what to do, and lately this has just felt right for us and for my kids.

So tonight as we discussed (under Guy's tutelage) the section in For the Strength of Youth that deals with Entertainment & Media, we worked our way over to the topic of social media and time spent on phones and before I even got the words out, Scarlett declared that she was ok staying off of social media, eventhough her friends tell her "you don't have a phone? I feel bad for you!"

My kids are brave.  I've got to hand them that.  And I reminded them tonight before I broke the news to them that in so many things we ask them to be different and to stand out.  This was going to be another one of those situations.

When "smartphones" came onto the scene just over ten years ago, almost no one that I know even considered that there might be negative effects.  Now a decade later, we are only just beginning to see the effects.  And there are plenty of people who are distancing themselves from social platforms who once embraced them.  

I am reading the book (ironically I'm reading it on my phone) called "How to Break Up with Your Phone" by Catherine Price.  I already had a desire and started taking steps to lesson my phone-time, but this book really drives that desire up about ten knotches as the first half of the book she hits you with fact after fact about what social media and technology does to our brains, to our memory, to our ability to focus and on and on.

We've always taken a wait and see approach with our kids and devices/media.  We've tried to anyway, because we were never quite sure what route was best.  We've dipped our toes in with the kids and media only to pull it back again when we saw how it affected their behavior and when we saw that we weren't ready as parents and didn't have all the answers we needed to navigate this new world with children.  On the other hand, my son Guy was one of the youngest kids I've ever heard of to get into indexing, again under my care and assistance.

One of the phrases from General Conference that has stuck with me in the last few months is this from Elder Stevenson: "Let us also teach and demonstrate the righteous use of technology to the rising generation and warn against the associated hazards and destructive use of it. Viewing social media through the lens of the gospel can prevent it from becoming a spiritual eclipse in our lives." 

Just in the last few days, I finally could come to terms with how I interpret this quote.  I AM modeling righteous use of technology for my children.  I am finding ways to practice good use of technology by giving them brief, supervised access to it, instead of letting them loose on phones of their own and saying "Good luck, kid! Try not to get addicted."

As much as they might have wanted that perceived freedom, I just couldn't do that to them.  I could see what too much screentime does to their happy young minds and I couldn't let them go there.  (My favorite catchphrase for when my kids ask WHY can't they go online or WHY can't they just watch TV, etc in any given moment is "because I'm raising children, not robots, now go outside and play!" Or I'll say, "Because I want you to be a ''real boy'" a la Pinnoccio. Or my favorite sarcastic phrase that stemmed from a real incident, "TV told me to, Mommy" always gets a laugh!)

This article that I read recently really helped me bridge the gap and opened my eyes to how much added unnessary pressure my children would have to face if they were to keep up a personal social identity online in addition to having to figure out their real in-person identity at the same time.

This is pressure I did not have to endure while simultaneously going through puberty.  I was free to figure myself out outside of the public eye.  I want to give my children this same gift.

I understand that in the coming years they might change their mind on this, but as of right now I think they're relieved....the same way they seemed relieved the other week when we taught them about our standards and expectations for them when they begin dating.  The pressure was off.  Now they knew how to respond to questions from their peers.

I can be their scapegoat when their friends ask why they aren't online.  "Oh my crazy parents won't let me be on social media.  Pssh, yeah, I know, crazy, right?" 

And when they are adults, with fully-formed identities, testimonies, and convictions, they will be ready to be a force for good out there in the cyberworld on their own.  Until then, we practice and do these things together.