I fought too much media use for most of my motherhood journey.
But then, life happened, motherhood happened, and in the process I realized that fighting electronics – phones and social media – is like fighting the wave of culture. So with that, the exhale, my kids use media. Probably more than the daily allowed “safe” amount, but I am okay with it. It’s balance. Learning back and forth. But still, I’m not going to run from it.
This is why we love social media and the internet.
- They still play outside. They run, they bike, they swim, they hike. We go outside. Media did not make them decide they don’t want to go outside, in fact, it’s inspired the other. Tricks on the skateboard, images of the waterfalls we go hike at, texts from friends asking to meet at the park. Being on media hasn’t stopped them from playing. Or jumping from furniture emulating the parkour guy on Youtube.
- They learn. And I mean a great deal. My twelve year old could win on Jeopardy due to his rapid accumulation of facts. So often we wonder about something and he’s already searched it and is telling us the answer. When I was little I had outdated encylopedias giving me the answers. The internet, even with all the negatives, is an amazing online resource of knowledge. Want to see earth live from space? It’s there. Wonder how to solve that complex algebra problem? Parents, it’s there. My eight year old followed a drawing tutorial on Youtube and drew those Star Wars characters on his own. Impressive? Yes. Way more than a book, but a step-by-step tutorial that resulted in him sitting for an hour and drawing these.
- They understand culture. And yes, our culture is one that exists with Snapchat, Instagram, and social media. Instead of making it something forbidden, in our family we have rules and respect. We know about digital footprints and responsibility. But, for us, denying it means that there is something bad with it. Media, phones, electronics, they are not going away. So instead of banning them, we embrace them.
- I use media. It’s my job. They see me on my computer, my phone. It’s how money comes in my house. I can’t be like, “get off of that and do something productive” when what I do to earn an income for our family is being productive on my computer and phone. So telling them to knock it off while I sit there working (or watching Hulu) is antithetical. This digital world is the world of the future and opportunity. I believe teaching them to push themselves to find a space in it will create a world of opportunity.
- It helps me. Yes, I will admit it. But I am telling you when I am sitting in a doctor’s office waiting waiting waiting and the appointment is behind and they are antsy I am so thankful for my Netflix app on my phone. It is like heaven for me in that moment. And sometimes I have to work and it is raining and I’m grateful for the computer time for them. Oh yes, and it SAVES ME time. Thank you Amazon and everywhere else I can order online. I can stay in touch with teachers and see grades and watch the weather and know when my kids are leaving school. It’s an amazing resource.
- They are creative. My oldest daughter received a scholarship based off of her photography business based off of her web design based off a blog. If I had limited this – well, this opportunity would have left. They’ve also been inspired by others who create, design, and it pushes them to think “what if I did that?” and “maybe I should try.” In fact, so often social media has motivated my kids to take risks, to be bold, and to speak up. Think about all the videos we see of those who defy odds, who challenge the norm – our kids see them too – and that is amazing.
- We can stay connected. Case in point: my oldest daughter lives in Seattle and we live in Nashville. Her siblings get to FaceTime her and talk. I can connect with my parents in Minneapolis. Social media allows connections too. And, in some ways, it is the new intercom in the house. My teens play games on their iPhones with each other or text each other memes. Who knows if they even would have chatted with each other otherwise? And my teens? My daughter will send me notes from school letting me know how her day is going. That is awesome. When I traveled for work, I still could see my kids faces at night. That is a blessing indeed.
- We get to spend time together. Beyond the connected. I’ve watched so many movies with my kids that I’ve loved. Or I will join in on the games. Or whatever you may think, but truly it’s a blessing and a way for us to be a family. In fact, as I write this, my 14yo and 16yo are downstairs laughing as they create silly sound effect videos that they are making together. Don’t discount together time based on a phone. Sometimes the greatest bonding can happen with the phone. It’s not the enemy, only unless we treat it as something to not be used. Instead, it can be a tool and a way to create togetherness and connection.
So yeah, I guess I’m not anti-social media. I’m just not.
Are there limits? Yep. Our phones get checked into my room at night. And computers aren’t allowed in rooms, but beyond that, I’ve decided that this social media digital saturation simply is our world. I either teach responsibility or I teach fear.
I choose responsibility.
And with it has come a world of opportunity.