We have all heard the controversy that is social media. Is it good? Is it bad? What is too much? What should be your limit? What damage are we doing to our kids? All we mostly hear is how social media is such a waste of time and how it is corrupting our children’s minds. It oftentimes seems a place for people to complain or say things they would never say in public.
While social media may be all those things, I find myself somewhere in the middle. I believe, as with all things in life, it is about balance. I want to use things that may be considered trivial to teach my children to serve and love. I want to teach my children to be compassionate and caring.
This article in not about the good and evil of social media. I neither have the time to research the issue nor the expertise to debate the issue. I’ll leave that up to the professionals!
My children are only 3.5 and 14 months, so is social media really applicable? Well, what is one of the first things your babies started to grab? The toy phone and toy laptop you so lovingly bought? The remotes that make all kinds of obnoxious noises? No! Of course not! We all know better, but yet we still waste our money on those plastic toys. (Many apologies to the toy companies and much credit to your advertising schemes!) Our kids know the real thing when they see it, and they will be drawn towards your smart phone, computer, or remote controls. Your children are interested in what you are doing!
Here are four ways I have found I can use social media to teach my children empathy, awareness, caring, and service. These are the attributes I would like to foster in my children.
Prayers and thoughts.
One of the main things I like to do with my daughter if I am reading someone’s post about a sick child, or a prayer request, or even some heartfelt complaint, is to show my daughter the picture and tell her the story, and we will say a prayer right then. Even if you are not a praying person, you can still help your children see why that person may be hurting and why they would appreciate your thoughts. I hope this will help my children learn empathy and caring.
Send them a gift.
Maybe you see the new mom posting pictures of her beautiful new baby. If you have been a mom for any length of time, then you know underneath the facade of beauty and innocence and seemingly the all-together family, there are melt downs, hormone fluctuations, anxiety, and self-doubt. We have all been there. Use that moment to offer to bring your friend a meal, a cup of coffee, or just a few minutes of peace while holding the baby. Or maybe you see a post where someone’s family member is sick? Do the same for them. I realize this may not be possible for everybody. You may work full time, have young kids, or the day you plan to bring a meal is also the day your three year old decides to vomit all over your brand new satin thread sheets. That’s fine! That’s the beauty of social media and this digital world we live in! You can order groceries through Shipt. You can order pizza or use Dinner Delivered! Order groceries to be picked up. Have flowers or chocolate delivered! The possibilities are endless! While you may not get to cuddle the cute new baby or share a heartfelt hug, you will still provide solace, care, and comfort for your friend while showing your children what it means to be a friend.
Share your worst moments.
This one may be out there, but just bear with me for a minute. This is not to complain or make ourselves feel better; it is just to show our fellow moms and women, and friends of all ages, phases of life, and genders, that they are not alone. For example, my three year old is very strong willed, and you may think I am just saying that, but I do have witnesses. My child has hit me in a store in front of a cashier, then laughed. She has run away from me on a number of occasions. She has sat down on multiple public floors, the bathroom included, and thrown a full-out hands and legs thrashing tantrum! Don’t worry, she did get disciplined on those occasions, but we are talking about a child that, if you walk away and pretend to leave her, she does not care! No, really, that trick does not work with her! You are probably asking yourself, why is she sharing this? Or perhaps you are thinking, “My kid would never get away with that!” But for those of you who have been there and are “blessed” with a strong willed child yourself, you are probably thinking, yes I have been there. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone! See, I just helped you feel less alone by sharing some of my woeful stories! (For the record, I love my daughter more than I ever thought possible, but I just need to know that I am not alone and that I am doing okay!)
Call them! On an actual phone. Sometimes you just need a listening ear. Or send a card (you know the ones that require a stamp!), or send an email. You could even Facetime them if it is a long distance friend! It would only take five minutes of your time to do these things. You could even have your children help by writing their own note if they are old enough while your younger children can help you decorate the card with stickers or stamps. Make a list of jokes or send a gift card for some tasty treats. The opportunities, once again, are endless!
I know we all get sucked into the world of social media, posting and sharing, commenting and liking. There is certainly nothing wrong with those things. I just want to remind all of us that there are real people behind those posts and a picture really isn’t worth a thousand words. (Have you ever tried getting all your kids to smile at the same time?) Sometimes people just want to share their lives, sometimes they are calling out for help. We can all be too quick to judge. How incredible would it be if we spun the social media world on its head and had a nationwide “Pay it Forward Campaign”!? What an incredible tool to teach our children to look for opportunities to love and serve; they are always there. You need only open your eyes.