According to a 2010 study by Internet security firm AVG, 81 percent of children around the world have an online presence before the age of two. So it was apt that the week-long Social Media Week Singapore had organised an event titled 'Growing Up on Facebook' last week which sought to uncover the impact on children who have been and who will be immersed in social media for their whole lifetime. And alongside with 4 other speakers, I was invited as a panel speaker at the discussion forum.
|Photo courtesy of Social Media Week Singapore|
I think in many ways, we are biologically wired to promote our children, and this behaviour could perhaps to attributed to evolution. Putting one's child's photos on Facebook is just simply the modern-day version of pulling out the wallet photos.
Or is it? Social media may have triggered an onslaught of parental insecurities. We see our friends on Facebook posting photos of their gorgeous kids, or raving about their latest milestones and achievements. So in a way, even if we parents are fairly secure with our parenting and children’s successes, social media has become the official second opinion - I think I'm doing a good job at raising my kids but hang on... let me find out for certain on Facebook.
So I think it is important that we as parents take a step back sometimes and think if certain things that we upload online will have a detrimental effect on our kids at a later part in their lives. As I have shared with the audience during the event, the reason for the existence of this blog has always been for one purpose.
@3cheekiemonkies uses his blog as an online diary to capture memories for his children #smwsggrowingup #smwsg
— SMW Singapore (@SMW_SG) February 19, 2013
My blog is to document the growing up years of my 3 wonderful kids, as well as to share the interesting places or activities to do in Singapore. In the process, we also hope to inspire other parents to embark on an exploring and bonding journey with their kids too.
At the other end of the spectrum though, I am also mindful of sharing their entire lives online for all to gawk. Like how Meiling Wong (http://www.universalscribbles.com) - the Mummy Blogger who was with me on this panel discussion - put it: "I find myself more aware that they are young individuals with a clean slate. And it is not my prerogative to put THEIR lives online for the whole world to see. Privacy, it seems, is going to be a remote commodity for this generation of kids."
So it is often a thin line to thread when it comes to sharing our photos and status updates on the various social media platforms. But when it comes to technology, one thing is for certain.
Our children can't afford to fear technology says @3cheekiemonkies#smwsggrowingup #smwsg
— SMW Singapore (@SMW_SG) February 19, 2013
Banning social media from children until they are deemed old enough, or even parents shunning the use of such platforms can be counter-productive to a child’s development. Like it or not, the ways that people interact and make friends are changing. It is here to stay.
We cannot simply afford to pull a blanket over our children's heads and hope that they will suddenly become savvy social networkers, nor can they be thrown in to the likes of Facebook or Twitter. Education is the key, and they should not merely be told that. They need to be gradually introduced to social networks and trained on how to use them safely.
For Ash & Ayd, they are now old enough to understand the simple concepts behind an online blog as well as the notion of how the entire world can read whatever I publish on my blog. So now, I usually include them when I am in the middle of drafting a blog entry and let them read whatever I post. In this way, I hope to inculcate in them in taking responsibility of what one posts online, and also the amount of information shared.
As I have shared with the audience as well, I would rather be the one who exposes them to the world of social media and guide them along as they grow older, than let them learn about the workings of social media through their friends.
So hopefully, with the right nurturing, guidance and practice, my kids will have the best possible preparation when they are deemed old enough to tackle social media on their own and at the same time, I have been involved long enough so as to be constantly aware of their actions online.