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Guest Post by Liam Garcia, a staff writer for TipsonHowToSaveMoney.com

I recently read Gary’s post about cutting down on social media for the sake of his children. He likened his social media usage to his parents’ smoking addiction. He pointed out that they quit their bad habit after they read a startling statistic: smokers tend to raise smokers. This statistic wasn’t even available until decades after smoking became a social activity.

So, if ramifications from our social activities don’t become public knowledge until after it is already commonplace, could social media become the new tobacco?

Will social media junkies raise social media junkies?

It inspired me to take a look at how I use my own social media accounts, and how it may affect my daughter. Our children mirror our behavior, whether they’re aware of it or not. If we allow social media to consume our lives, chances are it will consume our kids’ lives as well.

That’s why it’s important to set rules for your family when it comes to using the Internet. Kids now have mobile phones, tablets, and ultrabooks at their disposal. The Internet is a part of their social lives, it’s even a part of their learning. By making rules and setting limits, our kids will learn healthy practices while they are becoming active members of the world wide web.

Here are some basic rules, directed at kids and pre-teens, for safe internet usage. If you can’t eliminate Internet usage altogether, you can use these rules to craft your own family Internet agreement.

Don’t:Kids on the iPad

  • Share Personal Information
  • Share Passwords
  • Steal Copyrighted Information
  • Download Without Permission
  • Meet Someone You Met Online

Do:

  • Tell a Parent When You Feel Uncomfortable
  • Use Good “Netiquette”
  • Visit Age-Appropriate Sites
  • Use the Internet for School Research
  • Respect Your Parent’s Rules for Internet Usage
  • Discuss What You Read and See Online with Your Parents

Have Fun!

Kids on facebookRecently I’ve noticed our kids taking a particular interest in Facebook – or, more correctly, our involvement on Facebook. This wasn’t a sudden change on their part, just an observation of mine. I’d like to tie this into a story from my childhood regarding something my parents did for my brother and I.

My Dad was a four-pack a-day smoker. And in his words, he didn’t just light them and let them burn, but he smoked the tar out of each one of them (pun intended). My Mom didn’t smoke quite as much, but nonetheless, like many in the rising middle class of the 1960s, she smoked her share too. When I was about seven years old, my parents read that kids are more likely to smoke if their parents smoke. So they quit – cold turkey. Looking back on that, I am filled with awe and respect. It was not easy for them, but it was entirely cool!

Now let me give you a little background regarding my involvement with social media.

I first used email in the very early 1980s – long before people had even heard of the Internet. About 1989 I discovered CompuServe and Prodigy. I was a big user of CompuServe and was very involved in several forums. I developed my first web page, via CompuServe about 1994. At the time, there were only about 100,000 public webpages online. CompuServe began to open pathways to the larger Internet and about 1995 I abandoned CompuServe, along with about 100 million other people and set out onto the free-range of the frontier Interwebs.

I sent my first Tweet in the Fall of 2007 – in a deliberate move to explore social networking as a tool for leadership, outreach, and ministry. I resisted Facebook for another couple of years, but soon learned that Facebook is where the audience is. I now manage six Twitter accounts, and nine Facebook pages. I have several Google Plus pages, a YouTube channel, Flicker, Instagram, and a host of other apps to share stuff and participate online. I host my own blogs and have blogs scattered across networks. I consider myself to be one of the more informed social media users online. In fact, I have a fledgling social media consulting business.

Kind of like people talking about looking at something on their phone, but instead saying iPhone. How we got the message, or through whatever medium (eg; email, text, phone, cell phone, Facebook, or face-to-face), it really doesn’t matter – but we always seem to label the medium. Why is that?

Health LivingOne of my goals for my online involvement is to reach audiences that won’t be reached through traditional media. In this way, I’m a social media evangelist. Another goal is to stay ahead of the curve so I can provide informed and solid guidance for my kids as they enter their teen years. They are growing up to be digital natives and will need good guidance to avoid some of the booby traps out there.

RELATED STORY: Why are 5 million kids on Facebook if it doesn’t want them?

The other night, while driving across South Dakota in the dark, I listened to an interview Emily Bazelon, the author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. What I heard scared the wazoo out of me.

  • First, I was reminded of social sites that I’ve not yet explored – and don’t want to.
  • Second, I realized I will never be able to single-handedly “stay ahead of the curve.”
  • Finally, after much reflection, I understood how my influence and example will pave the way for my kids.

Many of the sites mentioned in this interview, I’ve heard of and some, like Instagram, I use. But others, like Snapchat, Formspring, and Vine, I don’t use. First, I’ve heard that these sites are predominately used by teens and young adults; second, I’ve heard there’s a lot of sexting happening, and I’m not interested in being exposed to that; and finally, I’m just not interested in building a network of new followers. I already have about 6000+ followers on the sites I do use, I don’t have the time or inclination to go after a new audience. I suppose that’s a sign of old age, decreased testosterone levels, or sanity – I’ll let you decide.

As I thought about this later, it confirmed in my mind how our involvement is influencing our kids.

So, last night over a rare, but fun little dinner at Pizza Hut, I mentioned to my Wonderful Wife that I was rethinking our involvement in social media and Facebook. As we talked about this, our Darling 8yo Daughter seemed to show too much interest and was overly concerned that we should not end our involvement with Facebook. As I thought about this later, it confirmed in my mind how our involvement is influencing our kids.

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Too often our conversation revolves around stuff we’ve seen on Facebook. Not unlike how we would share things we heard at church, a book we’re reading, or something we saw on TV. However, because we don’t talk on the phone much, don’t watch TV at all, and we spend more time on Facebook then some of the other social activities, Facebook-related comments dominate in our conversation. For us, this has to change.

Then I discovered this interesting blog post on one of my favorite blogs: Walled-in: Life Without Facebook (I’ll let you read it yourself) – here’s an sample quote:

“As the theme song of Cheers told us, ‘making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.’ Perhaps it takes too much, and we would rather fall to the familiar comfort of checking social networks. But it’s a worthy effort, giving all you’ve got, in order to make your own way. The path you walk on your own, it’s a path worth giving your soul for. Your feet on the barely-tread ground, the fresh air of wilderness around you, and your own voice for company. It’s worth everything you’ve got.”

So, I’m considering several options, but I want to be clear, this isn’t about time, wasting time, or some of the other issues I’ve heard from people who’ve given up Facebook. Several of my pastor friends have quit Facebook  because they say it takes too much time. I personally think this is a mistake. Facebook allows a one-to-many conversation, as opposed to a phone call or text – which is one-to-one.

RELATED STORY: Beware, Tech Abandoners. People Without Facebook Accounts Are ‘Suspicious.’

No, this is bigger than time management. This is about instilling values in our kids where they desire something bigger than social networking and the Interwebs. By the age of 11 or 12, too many kids are chomping at the bit to be online. In fact, too many parents let their kids onto Facebook even before they are 13 and “legally” old enough to have their own account.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Facebook, and as far as social networks go, it is one of the safer ones, but it’s about values and what values we want for our kids.

We made the choice before we ever had kids to raise them in a home without TV, and we’ve never regretted that decision. There are worse things than sheltering one’s kids.

Some of the ideas we’re considering include:

  • Only check Facebook once a day and for only 20 minutes at a time.
  • Only be on Facebook on Sundays.
  • More carefully utilize friend lists and notification options in order to limit the number of people with whom we interact.
  • Eliminate Facebook completely.
  • Disconnect the Internet completely.
  • ???????

Do you have thoughts, advice, or stories of how you’ve managed this? Have you thought about this idea that your actions influence your kids’ future behaviors and thoughts? What have you given up in order to provide a better example for your kids? What would you give up if you thought it would help?

 

This blog was originally started to chronicle my journey into fatherhood. I intended to show my failures, thoughts, lessons learned, and tips I’ve picked up on the way – hence, the original title, “Confessions of a not-so-perfect Dad.” And then life took a little sidetrack and my writing slipped into a pall of whining, bitterness, fear, and discouragement. In one sense, I’m ok with that – some of it needed to be said. On the other hand, we were building a pretty good audience here, and we’ve lost a lot of readers since.

Over the course of the past year or two, I’ve been exploring many paths and I’ve started new blogs and social media platforms to explore these. These are best reflected on my curated Scoop.it profile. I have blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages that reflect these interests. It has been interesting to explore these topics – if for no other reason than it has helped me to see which avenue I should pursue and which I should walk away from.

The topics are as follows (in case you haven’t already clicked the Scoop.it link above): fatherhood, emergency medical services, leadership, social media, and post-denominational spirituality. More specifically, I want to help men become better fathers by becoming better men; I desire to see EMS move to the next level and get beyond its adolescence; I hope to build a community of leaders who are willing to share, collaborate, and grow/learn together; I also am a bit of a social media maven and I believe I could help people improve their online presence; and finally, like EMS, I see the Church stuck in a phase that is stifling growth, creativity, and usefulness – I would like to enable true spiritual seekers to find freedom from the constraints of bureaucracy.

As I’ve explored these ideologies, some with vigor and some with passivity. However, this process has enabled me to discover where the interests are, and, more importantly, where my passions lie.

Two months ago on Father’s Day, I was struck with an epiphany. As it often happens, these epiphanies come while I’m in the shower. I’m certain it has to do with the isolation, sensory deprivation, and lack of media distractions – but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, as I stepped out of the shower and donned my new “I’ve Got Daddytude” t-shirt (which you can buy!), I realized this is where my passion lies. More than anything, I want to be a great Dad, a great husband, a good man, and a good person. I also want to help other men attain this. Holistic Daddytude – mental, spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical health that will enable men to be the kind of men their kids need, the kind of husband their partners want, and the kind of person that benefits society.

I also realize that I have a lot of little tips, advice, and wisdom tucked up my sleeve – little common things, but significant in ways that are uncommon. As you know, the problem with common sense is that it isn’t very common. I believe I can continue to curate on Scoop.it, Facebook, and Twitter, while also creating content and sharing practical common wisdom. While I may never bring in enough revenue to pay the bills, I’m not concerned about that – my gifts, my passion, and my talents are all screaming for an outlet – and I need to bring this together and make it a reality.

Stay tuned…  to be continued.

 

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