Raising Kids to Be Their Best in Both Social Worlds
When I was young, if I made a new friend on vacation, we exchanged addresses to be pen pals. If our parents were willing to pay long distance, perhaps we’d exchange our phone numbers as well. These days, there are so many more ways to stay in touch that those pen pal days are almost completely long forgotten.
I recently returned from vacation in Mexico, with my husband and two sons, aged 10 and 12. As usual, both of my sons befriended a group of 8 kids, and spent the majority of their time with them. As the first week passed, these new friends were gradually heading back home to different places in the US, England and Ireland. Every single one of them wanted to stay in touch with one another. No longer did the home address become the first choice of communication. The parents looked on, as email addresses, cell phone numbers, Skype accounts, Facebook names, gamer tags, as well as Twitter and Instagram handles were being handed out. Of course, not every child had ALL of these options, but there was always a crossover somewhere. My boys have Skyped with the girl from England, have had email exchanges with a set of brothers from New York, and Facebook messaged a couple others.
All of these new technological options have opened up so many means of communication, and many people are in fear that our children will grow up without knowing how to properly socialize without these gadgets. As parents, we try to ensure our boys have both options. They are active in sports, and spend a lot of time outside with their friends. We have family dinners each night- no gadgets, no TV, just us. When it comes to social media, we monitor usage – no friend requests can be accepted without our knowing who they are, and we have the ability to log into any account they have. Trust is the most important factor in raising kids in this new social/tech driven world, but they must understand that trust is earned and not given, and it goes both ways. I personally have no fear that my boys will grow up to be socially awkward, as I know that we are teaching them the best ways to use the tools we have been provided. Without all of these options, they very likely would have lost the friendships they formed, and because of them may now have these new bonds forever. They will grow up knowing how best to use these tools, and when a personal or “technological” means is most appropriate. And they’ll be more effective at communicating than even their parents.