Saturday January 25 2014

ON PARENTING: Children and social media

By Min Atek

‘Mummy, I have something to tell you, am on FB”. That sentence made me freeze and for those who might be wondering why, it’s because my child…the one I gave birth to just the other day was informing me that she is on a social media platform called Facebook, which many simply refer to as FB.

So, the question I asked myself and I continue to ask myself is whether or not children should be on social media platforms. I put the same concern to a group of friends and the views were as divergent as east and west. Some strongly condemned even the mere thought while another lot could not stop shaking their heads at my reservations; they claimed we Africans who frown on technology and advancement are the root causes why our children do not “prosper” like those in the western world.
I believe in technology and have personally embraced many a platform like this, but for my 11-year-old to be accessing and using those same platforms sent a cold chill down my spine.

When I was talking to my child, I took a moment to literally breathe in and to take it in, the whole while trying to quickly figure out how best I should respond. You see an 11-year-old of today is simply different from when I was 11 years in terms of exposure, thinking and general wellbeing. I managed to calm myself and to thank her for being gracious enough to let me know. You see, I could very well not have been informed only for me to bump into it sometime in the not so distant future.

I then went on to gently and yet very firmly, assert that it was not the proper thing. After a reasonably reasonable discussion we actually both agreed that the Facebook account be closed.
I believe in balance as well as responsibility and for me an 11year old child does not have the right balance and emotional intelligence to handle the responsibilities of social media.

She is yet to learn to fully balance her time and roles so for me to freely allow her access to it is to add further distractions. At the right time which in my case could be soon, she will have some limited access; at the right time she can go out but right now she is still too impressionable to have all that freedom. So we talked and we discussed and we finally agreed to continue talking and we agreed that for now, mummy was right.