March is social media free month

456 words. 5 minutes to read.

Cross-posted from 5 Minute Minimalist

Have you ever looked up from your phone or laptop, and realized that you’ve spent hours stuck down the rabbit hole of social media?

I have.

I quit Facebook a few years ago, and before I knew it, I was addicted to Twitter.

Then I stopped posting on Twitter so much because I was wasting so much time there, and I got addicted to Instagram.

These days, I’m on a variety of social media, and it often feels more of a burden than a pleasure.

I often feel like I have to check my feeds, even when I don’t want to.

Social media in your life

If you take stock and be honest…

– Do you ever feel worried about what you’re missing out on, if you don’t keep up with your feeds? I do.

– Do you ever ignore your kids, partner or other family members because you’re “busy” reading social media? I have. 

– Have you ever reached for your phone and read social media when you’re with friends or family, instead of communicating face-to-face with them? I have.

– Do you ever worry about how many “Likes” you’ll get, and find yourself checking a post over and over again to see who has “Liked” it? I have.

– Do you ever worry about what people will comment? I have.

– Do you ever worry about saying politically incorrect things or upsetting delicate or sensitive readers? I do.

– Do you ever feel like social media is the biggest waste of time in your life, and that you could spend that time on far more productive, positive things instead of social media if you weren’t on it? I do.

I notice that the popular people on social media say politically correct, unchallenging things, and they don’t ruffle feathers.

I’m a feather-ruffler by nature, and find the social media stifling to my free thought and free speech. Do you ever feel that way too?

Social media often feels like a race to the bottom, rather than a sharing of great ideas and actions. Does it ever feel that way to you?

Social media isn’t all bad

There’s nothing wrong with social media in itself, but it is very addictive for most of us.

What that means is, we spend so much time on social media, we often don’t prioritise what is truly important in our lives, and we spend hours trawling through social media instead.

So this month – this March – I’m quitting social media. Just for one month. Just for 31 days.

No Facebook.
No Twitter.
No Instagram.
No Snapchat.
No anything else.

Take a break

If you’d like to join me and experience what real life is like without social media, feel free to copy the image on this page, and post it on your own feed. Then say goodbye to your social media for 31 days.

Remove social media apps from your phone if it helps. That’s what I’ve just done.

Take a breath of fresh air.
Step outside.
Enjoy the view.
Enjoy the free time.
You don’t have to take a snap or share anything or add any filters or look for the best angle this time.
This time, just for 31 days, your life will belong to yourself again.

Links:
The Minimalists Social media podcast: Social media
Break The Twitch blog: BreakTheTwitch.com

March is social media free month

March is social media free month

Kids and social media

Kids are going to use social media, whether we like it or not. And sometimes I wish we could go back to a world before teen sexting and Snapchat and Tinder, but we can’t.

So as parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our kids to navigate social media safely. We can hide our heads in the sand, or we can teach them to use it responsibly, learning to be ethical and sensible online citizens.

I know a lot of parents, me included, are wary about letting our kids – of any age – loose on the internet. But we can’t ignore this huge part of modern life, and if we don’t teach our children how to interact safely and sensibly online, they’ll behave online in ways that could hurt them and their future careers, as well as potentially hurting others.

So I think we need to teach our kids, talk to our kids, and educate our kids 🙂 It’s our job, and we need to do it right.

Is there a right age for social media?

A lot of kids are on social media younger than the various companies’ own recommendations. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly and Pinterest all have an age requirement of 13. For Vine, Tinder, Kik and Yik Yak it’s 17. YouTube is 18, or 13 with parental consent. Twitter has no formal age requirement. I believe that asking kids to wait until they meet this age requirement is appropriate, because it teaches kids that rules matter.

Talk about why your child shouldn’t have accounts on these sites before the required age and, if you want, make a promise to open their accounts together when they meet the age requirement i.e. on their 13th birthday.

In the meantime, open accounts for younger children on other, child-friendly sites, and step them through safety online so they’re ready for larger, older social media when they meet the age requirement. School websites and games machines are a good place for kids to start with technology, and there are plenty of safe apps and games for kid-friendly devices.

I strongly recommend the site Commonsense media for reviews of apps and social media sites as well as movies and other media. It covers safety as well as age-appropriateness, and is worth a look.

Personal safety and privacy – some tips

The first thing kids of all ages need to learn is to protect their own personal safety and privacy.

  • Never post their real life name, address or date of birth online. Not ever. Not even for Facebook (even though it asks quite forcefully!) or Google. Not for any form of social media.
  • If advertising and cookies can be turned off, that’s a great idea. Explain to your child the very true fact of the internet: if there’s no cost to the service, then you are the product. Ask them to think about the ways in which social media might be making money from their membership. What do they think of this?
  • For Facebook and other similar accounts, I strongly recommend accounts use the child’s real first name (i.e. “Jacob” or “Rosa”) so their friends can find them, plus a fake family name that is generic and very common (“Smith”, “Jones”, “Peters”, “James”). Their friends will soon learn how to find them online, but a fake name helps prevent identity theft, as well as preventing potential employers from doing searches for them in the future.
  • Profile pics should always be group pictures, so that while friends can identify them, stalkers and online creeps cannot.
  • Use 1st of January as a generic birthdate on all social media that requires a birthdate (even if that is the child’s genuine birthdate).
  • Keep friends and “follow” lists on Facebook, Instagram and suchlike locked down where possible.
  • Ask children to “friend” trusted adults – aunts, uncles, friends, other parents and guardians, and other members of the family that you know and trust, and yourself on all social media they join.
  • Teach kids to keep all social media posts private and locked.
  • Teach kids not to friend anyone they don’t know in real life.
  • Write passwords down in a paper notebook and store in a home safe or locked drawer, so that in case of loss accounts can be retrieved. Keep a separate notebook for each child.
  • Ideally, open the accounts together, so that kids new to the various social media sites can learn with you. If you’re not familiar, you can learn together. If you don’t have an account on any site your child wishes to join, create an account of your own there and become familiar with what the site is and what it does, and what risks it may present.

Family safety and security

Talk about internet security online with your child. Topics never to be discussed include:

  • Family interactions such as disagreements, details about other people’s lives etc. You child needs to learn not to post about other people’s business. Don’t be a gossip – they may get hits and readership, but they’re never trusted or well-liked.
  • When the family is going on holiday or out to dinner, and when the home is vacant. Personal information like this can be used by burglars to plan theft.
  • Where the family lives, including outside photos of the home from the street (identifiers). As above.
  • Never share usernames or passwords with others, and never let others use their account. Make a habit of logging out of all accounts when done.

Being kind – and respectful – to others

  • Discuss trolling, bullying and cyber-bullying, and how being mean online is a nasty and low thing to do. Talk about who to talk to (yourself, other trusted others) should they ever feel unsafe or attacked in any way, no matter how ashamed or threatened they might be.
  • Make your child aware of what cyber-bullying is, and that in several countries, cyber-bullying is a chargeable offence (Article on cyber-bullying laws passed in New Zealand).
  • Talk about how people in other countries are still people, with feelings and thoughts as well. Explain the difference between constructive criticism and plain old nasty comments.
  • Discuss how people with very many different opinions are online. You might not agree with them, but that doesn’t mean you have to be rude to them. If you disagree, be polite and / or say nothing.

Sexting and photo sharing

  • Explain what sexting is, and how it can be against the law to share images without the consent of the originator of the image. Talk about how harmful sharing naked images can be, and how underage image sharing is child pornography, and a serious offence in almost all countries.
  • Explain the “no identifiable marks” rule. If they must share an image, never share an image with their face in it, or with anything that can be personally identified as them.
  • Talk about what to do if they receive a message or image not intended for them – talking to a parent is a great first step, and the parent (you) can then contact the school or local police station if necessary.
  • Talk about what to do if an embarrassing image or text of them gets shared. Tell them they can trust you, and that it is the person who has shared the image / text who is at fault, not them.

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Above all, keep channels of communication open. Keep talking with your kids, and be aware of what’s out there and what is popular. Even if you don’t particularly use the sites yourself, if makes sense to keep in touch with what’s happening, so you can support your kids if need be.

Finally, it’s important for kids to be aware that social media sites have their own rules about what is appropriate behaviour and what isn’t. These rules can include the age of membership, what is appropriate to post, and so on. Some sites do not allow members to delete posts – your child should be aware of how to delete posts before they post anything, in case (for when!) they make mistakes!

Happy geeking! 🙂

What to do when your kids want everything…

My kids think: to be popular, they need the latest hair, clothing, bags, accessories, smartphones, laptops, tablets…the list goes on.

I think: If they want anything beyond the basics, they can buy it themselves! With money they earn working. Just like everyone else.

The pressure to conform is really harsh for kids. I get that. Kids go to school then immediately compare their phones, their tablets, their laptops. They compare hair, shoes, bags, jewellery, makeup. It seems endless, and it’s all expensive. And the list of wants never ends. It just keeps on getting bigger.

Their whole world – even more so when they become teenagers – is one giant pecking order of looks and selfies and Facebook Likes and who-has-what and hers-is-better and his-is-newer.

It’s rough.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a parent’s job to pay for it all.

I’m a good parent. I love my kids. They have a great, safe home, and they’re loved to bits. They get all the support and care in the world from us, and they have everything they need. But I do not believe that giving them everything they want makes them better people.

I don’t want to support a society where he who has the most stuff wins. I don’t believe The Kardashians are better people than the rest of us just because they have more, expensive, designer stuff.

I believe a person’s value comes from within, from their heart and soul and mind. Not from their clothes.

I’m old-fashioned that way.

I also believe it is my responsibility to teach my kids the difference between necessities and luxuries.
A basic pair of school shoes? Necessity.
A smartphone? Luxury.

Need versus want. Kids need to learn the difference.

So what I say is, give your kids love, all the love they need.
Give your kids healthy food, a safe home, basic clothes, a great education.

But high fashion? No. If they want it, they can earn it themselves.

valuewithinnotclothes