As it stands, almost everyone who is currently a parent was lucky enough not to grow up with social media as a kid. This was an incredible gift…but we’ll soon be going the way of the buffalo. Fewer and fewer people will remember life before the internet changed everything, when it ceased to be a part of life and came to be the lens through which we experienced and talked about life, about…well…everything.
Navigating this world is difficult enough for adults…it’s crazy for kids. Which is why, just as we have to explain what to do if they ever come across a loaded gun or how to think about drugs or alcohol, we have to teach them how to think about this dysfunctional, unhealthy online world.
Judd Apatow, who has two daughters, has long made a habit of telling his girls, “If you want to find something mean on the internet, you’re going to find it.” Meaning, they would have to be disciplined–especially as one of them became an actor–about not searching out what people say about them.
Even adults need to be reminded of this. Facebook is not real life. Twitter is not real life. They are tools that can quickly become traps. If you want to be a kind, understanding, loving person, if you want to continue to believe in humanity, you’re going to need to be disciplined about how you use these platforms. The same goes for your kids. If they want to find reasons to be angry, to feel insecure, to doubt truth and reality? They’ll find it. It’s all right there updated in real time, across their feeds, driven by algorithms to give them even more of what they seek.
Our kids will never know what it was like to live in a world without the internet. But we will also never know what it’s like to grow up into a world where it is ubiquitous. Which means we have to be doubly dedicated to understanding the lens the world has put in front of them and letting them know that there is a life they can curate and create for themselves–a good life, a real life–on the other side of that lens.