My children are part of the first generation for whom social media has always existed. When I was a child, the term “email” hadn’t even been invented yet. For my children, Facebook has always existed and email is regarded as old-fashioned. This has all kinds of implications for kids, of course. We’ve all seen the multitude of reports and studies about what screen time is doing to our kids, how the obesity epidemic is being linked to the explosion of computer-based gaming, and how computers are making new skills emerge as old skills decline.
Something that is not talked about as frequently is the impact of social media on parents.
When my mother was raising me and my brother, the only people she could call on for advice or opinions were people she actually knew in person.
If she needed help, she had to either pick up the phone and ask, or go and visit someone. In the event of a child getting sick or injured, she would take us to the doctor, trust whatever the doctor said and get whatever medication was prescribed.
My parenting experience has been vastly different. I have the same supports that my mother had – friends, family members, and especially my mother herself – but I also have the Internet. When my older son was born, I joined a parenting group on Yahoo, and developed a friendship with fellow members that endures to this day (the only difference is that the Yahoo group is now a Facebook group). When my son was diagnosed with autism, I joined an autism parenting group, with the same results.
Both groups are about requesting and receiving advice, sharing funny stories about our kids, and having a safe place to vent on our bad days. Through these groups – and through World Moms Blog – I have developed online friendships that are every bit as real as “traditional” friendships. We rally around each other in bad times, and we celebrate together in good times.
No matter what is going on with my kids or with myself as a mother, I always know that there is someone out there who understands. And if I can’t find someone who has the answers I need, there’s always Google.
There are downsides to parenting in the age of social media, of course. Sometimes I go searching for understanding and find judgment instead. I find stark divisions in the parenting community. I have been criticized for vaccinating my kids. I have seen homeschooling moms viciously attack those who send their kids to school, and vice versa. I was once an uncomfortable online witness to a discussion in which a breastfeeding advocate smugly told a breast cancer survivor that she would be able to breastfeed her newborn child if she “tried harder”.
So yes, ugliness is as pervasive on the Internet as it is in the physical world. But we respond to it in the same way: by trying to counteract the bad with the good, by being supportive of one another and by leaving the ugliness behind.
At the end of the day, I am thankful to have the world of social media at my fingertips as I navigate the mysterious world of parenting. And I am even more thankful that at any time, I can pick up the phone and call the person who muddled through it all without the Internet: my mother.
What differences have you noticed between your mother’s era of parenting and your own? Does social media play an important role in your journey as a mother?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada.
Photo credit: StartBloggingOnline.com This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Last Sunday, my closest friend became a mother for the first time. It has been excitement galore from all the people who know her: her family, her friends, her colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances, and just about everybody.
When I visited her in hospital, I found myself giving her all kinds of advice about motherhood from breastfeeding, to weaning, to walking, to teething, all that and more.
Then I quickly told her that I would add her to some Facebook groups that would be of great help to her as a new mum. I began by adding her to a group that is exclusive to Kenyan mums who are breastfeeding. As I did so, I amused myself at how Kenyan mums have turned Facebook into their go-to resource center.
There are plenty of Facebook groups by and for Kenyan mums whose membership constitutes a certain phase of the motherhood journey.
For example, when one is trying to conceive, there is a group to join. When she conceives, she then swiftly moves on to a group for pregnant mums. Once she has her baby, she moves on to the next group –that of breastfeeding mums. After that its a group dedicated to weaning, and where nutrition advice is offered –by fellow mums.
Then there are also larger groups made up of Kenyan mums with babies of whatever age, a general group where everything about motherhood is discussed. From schools, to detergents, to diapers, to cooking fat, tissue paper, to the very critical issue of house girls (nannies). Everything goes. Each of these groups have thousands of members, with one even having slightly over 90,000 members!
I have been in all of these groups, and I am still members in some of them.
In the traditional African setting of the past, new mums were guided into the motherhood journey by the older women around them: their mothers, their aunts, their grandmothers, older cousins and female neighbors.
However, in today’s society some of these traditional fabrics are slowly ebbing away.
More women have to work to supplement the family income, which leaves little option for staying at home to look after the children. In fact, we are seeing less and less of the special interactions between generations of women when it comes to raising her child.
Consequently, we are turning to our friends, our online friends, most of them strangers, for advice that would otherwise have been given to us by our ‘African mothers.’ Combine that with modern technology where access to the internet in many African urban cities is growing, and accessing information and connecting with mums online becomes inevitable.
Sometimes when I think about it, I believe it’s unfortunate, especially for those of us who live in the urban towns, that we no longer have easy access to those traditional pieces of motherhood advice that we would have received directly from our mothers. But, in turn, we are grateful about how the internet has made our parenting journeys significantly easier for our modern lifestyles. Because, it truly has. But, it is only natural to wonder if we may be missing out on something lost.
How has online motherhood support played into your experience as a mother?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by contributor Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama of Kenya.
Photo credit of Kenyan women to the author.
Quote image credit to World Moms Blog.
Imagine the scene: an eight year old girl with a Facebook account – allowed for by her parents. I will call her Maria. Maria’s parents both work full time and after school she stays at home with the maid. She has full access to the computer and knows how to navigate the Internet quite well.
Several hundred kilometers away, a grown man creates a fake Facebook account using childhood photographs of a famous teenage singer. He contacts Maria and she accepts him as her online friend. They chat. At one point he says he loves going to the beach and sends her a picture of the singer, when around age eight, at the beach. “I also love going to the beach!” she says and, when prompted, sends him a picture of herself at the beach wearing a bikini.
The friendship progresses over several days. Maria is happy because she and the cute boy seem to have a lot in common. One day he asks for her phone number. He says his birthday is coming up and he wants to invite her. Using a child’s voice, he talks to her briefly and then asks if she can talk to his father. The “father” says the “birthday” will be a lot of fun: he will pick her up at school and take them to the mall, to the movies, for ice cream and other fun things.
He also tells her not to worry about talking to her parents. He will call them later and they will work everything out.
The day of the “birthday” arrives. The man gets to Maria’s school and tells the porter he is her uncle. The porter says he will have to call Maria’s parents to get permission for her to go with him. “No problem,” he says, “while you call I will go pick her up in her classroom”. Her parents deny the story and the man is not able to leave the school grounds with Maria. At this point the school staff has started to get suspicious and they are able to record the number of his license plate and inform the police.
The man is later intercepted at the state border. He has a criminal record and has already spent time in prison for molesting children. Unfortunately, as there was no formal accusation, the police are not able to arrest him.
The scary situation I described above is a true story that happened to the daughter of one of my husband’s colleagues. The topic came up in a talk how nowadays children are so computer savvy, and my husband commented on how we limit the kids’ screen time: we have no TV set at home; the eldest has limited time on the Internet and no social media or e-mail accounts; and, more recently, we have cut all screen time for the two smaller kids (both under four) with the exception of days at grandma’s and the rare trip to the movie theater. At that point the co-worker stated that nowadays it is impossible to control kids’ screen time and recounted what happened to his girl.
Valdemar Setzer*, a professor at the Computer Science Department of the University of São Paulo (USP) researches the impacts of screens on children and advocates that kids – for lack of maturity – should have no access whatsoever to the Internet (teens included). I recently heard him talk and a lot of what he said only confirmed my own opinions and reinforced the hard decision of eliminating all screen time for my two youngest kids at home.
On the other hand, it also got me thinking about how part of the problem doesn’t have to do with the screens themselves: it is much more about parents and children who spend way too little (quantity) time together, parents who overwork to make ends meet and are (understandably) too tired to play or do outdoor activities with the kids and the end of the day or during the weekends, or simply parents and kids which communication needs to improve a lot.
I am not trying to be judgmental here – I am grateful my job is flexible and allows me to have a lot of time with my kids, but I know other parents are not so fortunate.
However, even in my case stories like this make me once again rethink my priorities and find ways to organize our family life, as there is always room for improvement. After all, there is nothing more important to me that my children, and I believe that is the case for most parents. Also, despite all the benefits the Internet and other new means of communication have brought about (such as bringing together mothers from around the world in this blog!), for me real, active life is always better than the passive life that goes on “behind the screens” – not only for children, but for adults too!
And you, do you control your children’s screen time? If so, how? Please share your story!
[*] Prof. Setzer’s website is loaded with information on the effects of screens on children, including stuff in English – http://www.ime.usp.br/~vwsetzer/
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Eco Ziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Sinistra Ecologia Libertá. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
The mere fact that you’re reading this blog post means you have some understanding of social media and how it works. In this day and age you can’t escape the reach of social media, it’s everywhere from Facebook and Twitter to blog posts and everything in between.
Amazing things happen as a result of social media, families tracking down lost family members, people establishing support and advocacy for life changing programs at the blink of an eye, the ability to build and grow friendships and support networks across the world – social media is far reaching and rapid in its results.
As a parent though, social media can and should be terrifying.
For as quick as the good of social media duplicates and creates a movement it can also destroy and damage just as quickly. Reputations, lives, belief systems can all be damaged in the blink of an eye.
I was lucky in some ways, my children were teenagers at the very early onset of social media, so it didn’t impact largely on their early teenage years. As a mother though my mummy heart clenches with what I witness these days on Facebook and Twitter and what I see in the news.
Bullying drops to an all-time low when combined with the reach and anonymity that Facebook provides.
How, as a parent, do you combat this sort of rubbish when most of the time you may not even be aware it is happening? How do schools even get involved with what happens in the cyber world outside the school walls? Teenagers (our babies) are committing suicide because of on-line bullying which is sadly in the news too often these days.
The love of selfies and intimate photos which are shared on Facebook and Twitter amongst tweens and teens (and let’s face it even amongst adults). Something which is done on a whim, or a moment of little thought and once released are out there and never to be reined in again.
Future employers can locate this information, in fact anyone can access this information if they know where and how to look. No person should ever think that what they post is between them and their ‘friends’. I don’t know how many posts I see from parents and teachers posting messages ‘to prove how fast it can spread around the world’ to warn their children.
I read the most amazing post the other day by a mother which she sent to the friends of her child, I don’t know this woman nor her children, but boy did her post hit home and make me realise how important this new element of parenting is. I applaud this show of brave parenting.
You can read her post here.
I’ve always had my children as friends on Facebook, so that I know what they’re posting and what they’re doing. It’s not always an ideal solution because middle son has a tendency of un-friending me when drama is happening in his life. This is a warning in its self and now that he’s 20 I don’t have as much control, but at least it makes me ask questions.
My quick tips;
- Set the rules for social media use right from the start
- Know what they’re doing and who they’re interacting with
- Make sure you have them as friends on social media
- It also helps to be online friends with their friends
- Monitor but don’t dictate to them, you want them to trust you
- Be aware of what you’re posting yourself that they may see or read
I’d love to hear your thoughts on social media and what you do with your own children to keep them safe. My grandchildren are the next generation of social media users and I plan on being ready and armed to keep them safe in the cyber world.
This is an original World Moms Blog post by Inspiration to Dream of Adelaide, South Australia. Fiona is the writer of Inspiration to Dream and can be found writing or reading with every spare moment that isn’t filled up with work and her three boys, and of course with a bit of spare time thrown in for hubby as well.
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“Mommy, can I have a cell phone?”
These words were uttered by my five-year-old son James after school one day. He asked the question casually, as if he was asking for a glass of milk. No big deal.
My face involuntarily morphed into an “Are you crazy?” expression, and in a super-sonic voice that only dogs and small children can hear, I said, “No!”
“But Emma has one,” said James, as if that explained everything.
Emma is one of James’ friends at school. Emma is five.
The following day when I dropped James off, I spoke to his teacher.
“Does Emma really have a cell phone?” I asked.
“Yes,” said the teacher with a weary sigh. “It had the whole class in an uproar. We’ve had to make her leave it in the office during school hours.”
Wow. Five-year-olds with cell phones. When I was five, the only phone in my house was the ugly green rotary dial phone (more…)