Only recently a friend of mine (G) put up a challenge to herself. ‘Could I survive a week without my social media apps?’ she asked.
After reading her impressive article, I can’t fault her for trying, since, let’s face it, our world has become a constant procession of portable smart devices with large black screens, with nary a keyboard in sight, unless you happen to flavour a berry over a nice Granny Smith type of fruit. (My wife recently plopped my iphone, ipad, kindle, ereader and android tablet next to each other, and cynically asked me that if I had more window for her to clean, they would have to wait after the kitchen windows were done!)
Kids these days come in from school, gobble down dinner, maybe while watching TV (another large screen), and unless they have the obligatory (useless)religious doctrine / dancing / singing / piano / guitar lessons, will plop onto their desks, or, most probably, the family sofa to start their homework. Which invariably means firing up their notebook computer to finish projects, projects, and more projects. Now I am not discussing the waste of time and paper (because they need to be printed…WTF?) these are taking up, but rather the fact that it is a continuation of sitting in one place, to sitting in another, doing the same thing… probably every day.
Okay, so while my kids do their work, word processor firmly front stage center, they have little windows open up to the world of facebook, MSN, eBuddy, or whatever the hell software developers manage to come up with. So naturally, in between a chat and a poke, the much vaunted (and hated) homework is being pushed a step backwards…while the users are being hurtled even more swiftly towards something they cannot live without… albeit virtually.
Now I am totally against the ridiculous amounts handed out to students these days, but be that as it may, our children simply have very few spaces where they can express their physical prowess simply by stepping outside their door. No. You have to go to a designated place. There was a time once where I could just step out from home, and instantly the streets became my backgarden, my warzone, or indeed, my football pitch. Those days are sadly gone now, what with the huge amount of cars out on the streets, and of course, the obligatory Maltese rudeness.
So it is safer for our children to stay inside, or ‘under a watchful eye’, as they say. But once inside, what is there to do? Plug in the XBox, or watch TV? OOOoopps… there goes the large screen again! So yeah, social media apps are taking the place of regular playtime, you might say. Hold your horses!!!
Exactly WHAT will a 14 year old girl (youth!) play with? Dolls? Beads?
We have to come to the realisation that children have evolved so much physiologically, that what we are asking from them is akin to asking us at their age to NOT go outside. How could that be? Everyday, especially in summer, I used to be tearing up the streets on my bicycle, playing football with my mates, or playing ‘War’… that is unthinkable today.
Personally, despite their ‘alleged’ bad name, I cannot find fault with people these days if they use social media apps. The trick, as always is to ‘limit’ or ‘control’ the usage. I personally prefer children to use social media (in the correct way) than simply staring at a TV watching mindless programmes. And I actually think that games are a good way to improve responsiveness and encourage thinking.
Naturally, this is a double-edged sword, as I know for sure that many youths simply use these apps for their sordid affairs. Like I said, this cuts both ways. One of the many simple ways for parents to control is simply to let their offspiring build up their network of friends, and THEN start to use the same program and add their children as friends, thus ensuring that there is a modicum of control.
There is no denying that Social Networking is here to stay. I believe that despite being around for some time, it is still a novelty, and as such, I believe it will wane a bit, before steadying into an important tool that will realise its’ aim… everybody is within reach!
(G) tried hard, but fell in places where it simply happened because she had the wrong equipment. Admirably, she held on for long hours… but I cannot applaud or fault her. Because the crux of the matter is… we DO NOT have to go WITHOUT. We just have to limit ourselves until it becomes second nature to allow only an hour or so. After all, if availed of correctly, isn’t Social Networking entertainment too?