I live in a world which is so different from the one I was born in. In our days, libraries and playgrounds were places where one learnt to live, deal with others and gather knowledge. Now kids listen to books, watch television, play virtual games and ping each other on Facebook and twitter. And there comes that age old question … how much and how early?
My mother was terrified that I would never learn to deal with life because I buried my nose in books. She would try to control the books I read, fearing I would read something unsuitable at a very young age, a futile effort for most parts. The librarian never cared that I picked books from the adult shelf and read them in the library.
But those were safer days and that was harmless.
Now we live in glass cages. Everyone is on social media. We go out to meet friends and the first thing we do is check into a place on our smart phones, take pics and upload on social media even before the meeting is done. Yes, food, the clothes we wore, the people we met, it’s all online before we reach home.
As adults we can deal with it, but what about kids?
By virtue of being an author, I get added by many kids, and my timeline is often flooded by their lives and I am floored. These people live their lives online. Pimples, braces, first kisses, getting hooked, getting dumped, trying beer or their first puff of a cigarette… it is all out there for people to see. And then they weep (online) about being judged and being gossiped about. There is something beautifully vulnerable about them, and so fragile and scary. We had a life before the onset of social media, and we still have it. Their lives are out there in the open, their lives are the social media. I thank God that my kids grew up in a time before Facebook and Twitter. Knowing how computer savvy the younger generation is, I think I would have a hard time keeping up.
Some rules I would like to see kids abide by :
1. Strict time limits on social media : Life is lived better offline. And there is no permanent record there, so if you goof up, there are no repercussions.
2. Keep your kisses private, and for the love of God, keep your spats private. There is something called DM. Use it.
3. Real life rules apply online too. Keep your address and phone no. private, do not trust strangers and if someone is bullying you, block the person immediately and report to an adult.
4. Be polite and do not bully. Just because the person is far away and can’t punch you in the nose does not mean you can be mean. If you do so, you are a coward.
5. Do not fall in love with a pretty DP. It could be fake. (I think this applies to adults too.)
1. Kids are going to take away your laptop and phone. Let them, but social media accounts can only be permitted when you feel they are old enough to have them.
2. Now that they have FB and Twitter accounts, make them add you as friend. If you encounter resistance, follow them. Keep abreast with what’s going on.
3. Limit their social media time.
4. Check out the friends they add.
5. Snoop, by all means snoop. But be discrete about it, otherwise they’ll block you. How many fake accounts are you going to make?
Ritu Lalit is the author of two novels, A Bowlful of Butterflies published by Rupa & Co., and Hilawi published by Popular Prakashan. She is a single parent and blogs at www.phoenixritu.com