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Socialization Through Social Media

February 24, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve discussed social media in various forms in the past, but this was based on a short timeline. After almost ten years of allowing and monitoring my sons on social media sites and Xbox, I have arrived at a conclusion that has defied my original thoughts. On our way home, my soon to be former-educator and I talked about how social media, particularly Xbox, has affected our children and their socializing skills.

Socialization continues to be the biggest concern with skeptics of homeschooling. Knowing a few college professors whose wives homeschool, they constantly worry about their child’s social skills. We have been contacted on a number of occasions about how well-adjusted our sons are. We live in a rural area with little opportunity to have a strong connection with homeschool groups without placing much energy and effort into it. One homeschool group required us to be a member of their church otherwise, they would shun us even though we were included for a short time. Very Christian of them, don’t you think? Those belonging to our religious faith were an hour away. Our options were limited. We had a long drive to a group, sports, scouting, and other clubs that my sons would enjoy.

All of these options have pros and cons. Scouting wasn’t for one son while sports didn’t work the for the other. The long distance homeschool group worked on a partial scale, but the distance became prohibitive. There were local friends, though not numerous enough and this required a lot of work as well. When you are not going to the same school, the relationship begins to whither. The public school begins to distort the friendships as the negatives of public school bring out the worst in our youth. I do not especially blame the school system for it has more to do with parents, teachers, and our society’s belief that our youth are capable of thinking and acting like adults. Our public schools are hurting our children simply for the fact it is a conduit for the new societal laziness in giving our youth too much responsibility in decisions and sensitivities. This is worth another post with studies showing my point. This is where social media steps in.

Social media is like any other tool or option. It is only as good as you allow it to be. As a parent, if you do not monitor, social media becomes evil while if you over-monitor you become the issue. It is a balancing act. I hate Facebook, but I joined in order to monitor my children. Yes, I have twitter and a few other accounts that I hardly if ever use. Why? I am a parent, and it is my job to regulate and censor if need be. This is no different than me being visible at their scouting and sports functions. I do not let other people raise my children. Another aspect is the strict adherence to respect for other people that are expected of my sons whether online or in person. They understand that people are special and treating them with kindness goes a long way to helping that individual.

The biggest mode of media is Xbox, Minecraft, Runescape, Instagram, and Tumblr. The gentlemen use smartphones, computers, and the Xbox as the pathway. It is by my family law that I have free access to all of their work. This method may not be perfect for items can be deleted before I view, but it does send a message to my sons that I am involved and do care. Being an active parent is the biggest part of social media success. I have rules of no pictures on Facebook or personal information, though I can’t stop others from providing or fully stop my sons should they choose to do so. How has the social media worked?

You do get bullying, but this is found more prevalently in public schools and in the streets. There is no change. What I have discovered are the international relationships that have been developed from friends in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Sweden, and other countries to even the national friendships. Friendships wane as they become incompatible, and older friendships have been the most beneficial, though I closely monitor that. The older friends, when properly selected, have protected my sons in situations of language, sex, and other inappropriate situations. This new style of relationships is alien to me as I grew up with the face to face relationship. The relationships between groups of friends are monitored and more democratic than what I saw on the sports field or scouting. Adults have less control over the social media youth, which allows them to grow. Xbox, Minecraft, and Runescape have been one of the largest positives in my family in terms of socialization. Through Minecraft, my oldest learned the failures of socialism and how it evolves into totalitarianism (again, another topic). My youngest finds joy in helping new people as does my oldest.

Downsides come from those with issues such as the young girl whose parents do not care about her, and now she exhibits suicidal thoughts or the parents that do not monitor their child’s activities. I see that and read it. I’m known as a stalker in the family because I research these potentially influencing people. Who are they? What is their intent? My sons, now older, are too inexperienced in life and wisdom to always make the correct decision, so that is where I, a parent, come in. It is my job to counsel them on mitigating the negative influences. There are those out there to corrupt our youth, and they will provide pornographic links often time specializing in homosexuality. How do I know? I am a parent and I monitor as well as educate my children.

My sons have developed some long term friendships with people from different countries. They have not met, but they sing, talk, discuss personal issues, and help each other solves problems without ever being face to face. The make fun of each other, pick on each other, care for each other, and are there for each other. Socialization has been a key component of being online, but what makes it successful is my allowing it to grow. I accepted the negatives and work to mitigate them, but I won’t limit my sons to access the world simply for the fact I don’t understand. One thing that surprises many parents is that I have no time requirement for my children. I have let them play ten hours and have asked them to stop after two. What I notice is they are never sneaking when the privilege is lost unlike many of my friends that have strict time limits. We have rules, but these are rules within a standard family construct and does not target online activities. Online socialization does not work under an hour. Sometimes it takes hours.

As a means of socialization, the internet through social media is very useful. I continue to encourage face to face relationships but do not shy away from electronic relationships. When a child states that social media has kept him sane, then there must be something good. I do not know what the studies will show in the future about our online interactions, even though there are early studies out showing some concern. I do know that a healthy dose of face to face and online relationships are very healthy for socialization skills. Our children NEED both. If there are two takeaways for homeschooling parents or any parents, it is these: Be a parent and monitor your child’s activities and do not stifle their social media exploration. You fail as a parent when you place unreasonable constraints or do not monitor your children.

 

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