When is Play Really Play? A Mom's Question
March 18, 2008
Ann Handley of Annarchy writes, "What Is a Friend?"
Ann is also from Marketing Profs, a site you should have bookmarked. But, I know her from Twitter and this neat blog she writes, Annarchy. She writes such wonderfully vivid and interesting stories, I actually forget I'm reading a blog post when I hop over to her blog.
Today she asked some folks at Twitter what our thoughts were on the "What Is a Friend" post... as it involved the use of social media tools to connect two little girls. Ann is a Mom, so she is especially sensitive about this - I mean, she was truly concerned about how this 9 year old and this 11 year old were using Skype to become friends. So much so, that it evolved into what Ann's daughter considered "play." Talking to her new, unmet in person, friend... was play.
A lot of people have expressed their thoughts, and I leave it to you to join the conversation. But, I am looking at it differently. I am wondering how my granddaughter feels about using the Internet... a place I know her mother does not let her venture into, very often. She's a Webkinz fan, she used to do the Barbie thing online, and I know she occasionally does email. But, she isn't wedded to the net, yet.
In fact, her mother would likely not allow her to have a Skype account of her own. Something Ann admits that her daughter has. My granddaughter's mother (my eldest daughter) is the outdoor type - and prefers to see her daughter in that element. Not in front of the TV or on the computer.
Will she have much control over that, going forward? Is Ann doing it right - by allowing (with supervision, I believe) her daughter to make use of digital technology - to create and form friendships? Across the miles? I'm of the mind that the future is now and parents need to understand that some things are out of their control. Not out of their supervision - but, their control. Kids will use the Internet, and blogs, and social sites...and woe be it to the parent who denies them.
Still...as I said to Ann, I remember the days of building forts in the empty lot at the corner. Of running wild all over the neighborhood, without worry of being kidnapped or lured off by a sex predator. I remember basking in the warmth of summer days on my own, and in piling into heaping tall snowbanks for fun... and never once thinking the ringing phone was for me, and of not wondering what I was missing inside - on TV.
Those days are gone. Children are not let out alone, anymore. They use TiVo the way we used Etchasketch. So... is Skype the new penpal tool? Is it better, more connective? Are we missing something...by allowing our kids to be so caught up in social networking?
I don't think so. But, I still hanker back to those good old days of yore.
Ladies, all good points and so true. As with all new things - parental guidance and care is vital. It's only scary if YOU don't know the ins and outs... it behooves Moms and Dads to understand how all of this works, and to monitor it the same way they should be monitoring television.
And, it's fun - for all of us. So, go with the flow, but wear a good swimsuit...
Posted by: Yvonne DiVita | March 20, 2008 at 08:19 AM
I have seen it all: IM, Webkinz, MySpace and Facebook. All are good tools for communicating and socializing when used appropriately. And here is the problem. How do we ensure that this is the case?
Amazingly, even with Webkinz, which I think are adorable and seem so innocent, there were problems among the younger children. Kids would steal each others' passwords, then go into their friends' rooms and steal their "stuff."
Futhermore, we are kidding ourselves if we think we can prevent our kids from MySpace or Facebook. If it's what they really want, they can easily set up profiles on friends' computers. So I say, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Take it as an opportunity to teach your children right from wrong so they can go into the world of cyberspace armed with information on how to enjoy networking while staying safe at the same time. Make sure they have their MySpace "Profile" set to "Private User," for instance, and only "accept friend requests from people who know their last name or email address." Tell their friends to do the same. These settings are all available.
In addition, continually reinforce to them to never put anything out there that you wouldn't say to someone's face and aren't willing to stand behind. Try to make sure your computer(s) are located in high traffic areas. Maintain an open line of communication so that if your child is somehow feeling uncomfortable about a situation on the Internet, he/she will come to you.
Then just hope the values you've instilled in them carry through..and they don't screw up:)
Julie for WOW!
Posted by: WOW! Women's World | March 19, 2008 at 02:03 PM
Hey Yvonne -- Thanks for the link luv. : )
I'm not sure whether the way my kids play is better... but it's definitely a sea-change and harbinger. Their generation is a whole lot more seamless with their technology, and it's definitely crept into their play and social time.
That said, I guess it's not unlike my own initiative (when I was about my daughter's age) to have 10 or 12 penpals going at once! Same impulse -- different platform!
Posted by: Ann Handley | March 18, 2008 at 12:42 PM
I've set up email accounts for my kids that I monitor. They're not interested yet in Skype or MySpace or what have you; Club Penguin and Runescape seem to garner the most interest.
I think making digital friendships can be beneficial IF and ONLY IF one knows it really is a boy/girl behind that email address...and not a predator lurking online. It's really a fine line to walk.
Posted by: Barbara Ling (aka Owlbert) | March 18, 2008 at 09:47 AM