Sometimes its funny how disparate events can get you thinking.
In this case a couple of things made me think about what is the right age to introduce social media to kids.
Case Study 1:
My niece is about to be 12 and she and her friends all have Facebook pages. After taking a look at them, I realized that she combined with her friends were not being internet smart. When I spoke with her parents, they pleaded Facebook illiteracy.
Case Study 2:
At the birthday party of a friends daughter I had decent conversations about Facebook, Twitter and text messaging with kids older than mine (in the 9-15) age range. Also saw the devices some of the older kids were carrying (impressive). Now I am waiting for my kids to point this out to me.
Case Study 3:
(and this is a verifiable true story) While sitting in a Starbucks with someone in the industry discussing mobile and social media the actress Renee Zellweger who wanted to know more about what we were talking about.
So, three very disparate interactions, but all based around the concepts of social media and how we can and can’t interact with one another.
I am trying to think about this from the perspective of my kids or my niece–coming of age with all of this–and the conversation I had with my sister-in law who is Facebook illiterate. She was telling me how my niece will text over talking on the phone (I will too) and how she really did not understand how the interactions between friends on Facebook played out.
Now I admit to being pushed into this stuff professionally–and enjoying the crap out of it. But for someone who is coming of age with all of this–Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Social Median, Stumbled Upon etc all out there– in the You Tube generation–its a different perspective.
Suddenly there are no boundaries, and the world is a smaller place. My friend from sleep-away camp who lived in Texas and was in a different time zone and needed coordination to call is now just a simple text away. It makes a difference.
But that instant contact capabaility also changes the dynamic–and lets face it, when I was 12 the “long distance bill” was something to think about as I chatted with a friend in Montreal. Today, there is no such thing.
So, while the world is now readily available as we come of age in this social media world, we have to think about the consequences–when is there too much information out there. A good friend of mine had her world’s collide recently when her professional life collided with her private lifestyle. My conversation with my niece was about what she and her friends collectively post about themselves on Facebook.
As a parent its one of my greatest fears and hopes–that my children are able to harness this power and safely have these great experiences that for me was about a pen, paper and stamp.