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Of course kids are interested in social media. So what

Submitted by on Monday, 2 November 2009 No Comment

Big Guy is an active, curious, loquacious – Lord, is he loquacious – kid who loves zipping around the neighborhood on his bike, playing with friends and torturing his brother.

He also loves SuperPoke Pets on Facebook. Once in a while, at least. He’ll forget about poor MoMo for months then decide that he needs fed and groomed. And he needs more stuff.

Before you start tsk, tsking, Big Guy does not have his own account. He uses mine and plays with MoMo only when I’m in the room. But when it comes time for him to ask for an account, I won’t hesitate to let him.

Will there be rules? Of course. Safety lessons, too, with a death penalty for non-compliance.

Do I worry that social media will ruin the guys’ social lives and turn them into computer-immersed geeks who spend way to many hours a day online – kind of like their mom? No.

Which is why over-the-top warnings based on nothing but speculation crack me up.

“I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues,” Susan Greenfield, an Oxford University neuroscientist and director of Britain’s Royal Institution, told London’s Daily Mail in February. The “concern” was brought up again today in an article at cnn.com.

To a certain extent, Greenfield has a point. I worked for a boss once who would message me on the computer system rather than talk to me – and I sat directly across from him. But that man’s near 60 now, so clearly the tendency to hide behind a screen is not a function of age.

To try to turn back the electronic tide for Big Guy’s generation is impossible. He’s seen me email since before he could sit up. We regularly text messaged his father pictures and videos while he was away at basic training – but we also wrote letters every day. The guys are so used to cell phones that when we reinstalled the land line late this summer, they looked at the cordless models to see if they were getting signals.

It’s inevitable that when they’re old enough, the guys will want social media accounts. They’ve seen me do that for years, too, laughing at status updates and Tweets, responding to messages and letting a virtual pet virtually die of neglect.

No, I don’t believe that electronics are the be-all and end-all for education or communication. Humans teach humans more effectively than computers can. Same with social exchanges.

But the world has changed. Rather than fighting it due to overblown fears of predators or computer addiction – or melodramatic concerns about losing the art of conversation – I’d prefer to spend time figuring out how to make technology work for the guys and me.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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