Thursday, September 19, 2013

We can only survive the sharknado of kids and tech TOGETHER

So recently I have been facebook ranting on the group texting debacle happening with some of my daughter's classmates. Here's the thing, I am not doing it to whine, to complain about my life, to say whoa is me. I've got bigger problems than texting and so do you. I have been doing it to put it out there, to start conversations, to hopefully have other parents take notice and think about what their kids are doing online. It's a relatively small fish issue in a sea of sharks, but it's by looking at, thinking about and acting on these small things that we prevent bigger problems from happening.  Otherwise a sharknado develops and no body's got time for that!

iMessage is something you can access with gmail, ipods, iphones, ipads, and probably a whole bunch of other platforms I am unaware of. With it you can send group messages to people from your contacts. It's useful for planning something on the fly, getting the word out fast etc. The problem is, you cannot, at least I haven't found a good way to do it, get out of the conversation once it's started. This isn't normally a problem, you might send out a note, a few people would respond, and then the conversation over. When that conversation goes on for days, weeks, months at a time and includes over sixteen other people, then you might have a problem. Especially if you have no interest in what is happening, and your device keeps binging every few seconds late into the school night and filling up with messages. 191 messages from 9pm-11pm for example, and that was just one night. Yes you can turn off group messaging, but that prevents you from all group messaging. You could block people, but that blocks them completely is a long process, and only lasts for a limited time before you have to start the process all over again. Imagine if you were getting reply alls constantly from one email. It is a storm of craziness you can't run away from.

I was content to just turn off group messaging at night. I was willing to take my responsible kid's tech away because her less polite classmates were screwing it up for everyone, but then they started getting rude. As kids asked for them to stop the conversation, or to take them off the imessage, they were told to shut up, and that no one cared, to go away. I can't leave them alone in the storm. I can handle this with my daughter right now. We can manage it as a family, but what about those other kids? They are still dealing with the annoyance, and now they are being made fun of for it. Why should they have to deal with it too? Why should they be open to bullying for saying please stop this?

More importantly, what about those kids that are messaging late into the evening and being rude? Yes the things they are saying may not be so bad right now, and for the most part the conversation is ridiculous, but I think we all know that things often start small but can quickly get out of control. Shouldn't they be learning that it's unacceptable to pull people into these long, memory hogging, battery draining annoying conversations?  Shouldn't they be told that conversations should remain smaller unless they are about something important?Shouldn't they be held to a set of manners and a standard of decency? And shouldn't bullying of any kind be snuffed out immediately with everything that has been going on lately? They might not realize the impact they are having. They may not even mean to cause problems, they might just need to be taught, or reminded.

I don't have all the answers I am a parenting failure in lots of ways, I'm not trying to judge or lay blame. I am just asking for awareness, for conversations, for ideas. Technology changes everyday, and it's only going to get harder to help kids' navigate it, especially since they learn it all quicker than we do.

So please if you are a parent, a sibling, an uncle, an aunt, a friend of a kid with access to tech, have a conversation with them about how they are using it. Make sure they understand how it works, how they should use it, and remind them from time to time.  Most importantly check up on them. It's a privilege to have this kind of technology and it should come with some strings attached. There should be accountability. We get our daughter's messages on one of our devices. We have access to her email and Instagram. For that matter, we have access and accountability online as married people, we can look at what the other one is doing anytime we want. It's called accountability, and it's important for a family. If we all do this, if we work together on this, then none of us have to be the crazy parent, and our kids don't have to be the kid with the crazy parent! We can all come to the rescue of those that are stranded in the shark infested flood that is technology and bullying.

There is a great website too,, that has tools, research, tech use contracts and so much more to help you navigate this stuff with your young tech user.

If we all work together, no one will need to be swallowed by a shark while holding a chainsaw. (seriously if you haven't seen Sharknado, drown your problems in an hour and a half of cinema gold).