My generation was one of the first to really experience the abundance of information created by the explosion of the internet. Thankfully, the social media boom didn't occur until I was well past my "youth" years. I am so glad I didn't have my mistakes and dumbest moments forever posted on the internet for everyone to see. Teens now face so many consequences from things they text or post. It is hard for them to understand the lasting impact a single post can have on relationships, jobs, and future opportunities. Notice I said teens. I don't think most teens are mature enough to handle an online presence, much less children.
How do we handle all this information that's available at our fingertips? I admit I love my smartphone. I can access so many things in a moment that help me.
*Online maps and GPS are by far some of the most useful inventions ever. While I still tend to print a map for long trips (to unfamiliar areas), having a GPS or map has come in handy many times.
*Weather is another huge bonus. We live in a tornado prone area and the ability to check forecasts and radar makes life much less stressful. While tornado sirens are common, they do malfunction. Generally phones and internet work unless a storm is very close or has already caused damage and passed through the area.
*Connections to far away friends and folks from the past is great. In a few minutes on social media, I can catch up on what is going on in someone's life. I can also post something exciting in my life and share it with many people all at one time. When someone chooses to leave social media, I miss the easy connection to them.
Even with all of the positives, it is important to remember there are many negatives.
*Online news (and other forms of news for that matter) are so skewed. Sensationalism is the highlight. I get so frustrated with bandwagon news. More than that, the hatred that is spewed online can cause one to lose confidence in society as a whole. I've "unfollowed" many news stations who post provactive headlines on social media just to stir a debate. Online debate lacks the give and take of a face to face discussion. People also seem to put away all manners when it comes to posting their opinions on the internet when they are dealing with strangers.
*Social media has its ups and downs as well. Seeing the perfect snapshots of the lives of others can cause us to question our own lives. When your newsfeed is full of someone else's happiest moments, it can lead to dissatisfaction with ourselves. It is so important to look through social media with the realization that no one is leading a perfect life. I personally think it is important to skim past the "negative Nellies" who always have a complaint. I highly support posting prayer requests but make sure you also include some positives on your page.
How do we deal with these things personally? Many people are finding a constant internet connection can be too much of a good thing. Reports of social media addiction are on the rise. Many adults are realizing too much time connected leads to a lack of real life connections. I've read several stories lately of people taking social media fasts or leaving online "life" altogether in exchange for more time in the Bible, more time with family, and more time resting their eyes and minds. I think that is a great idea! I'm definitely the person in my family who spends the most time on the internet (mostly for work/ blog purposes), and I've started working on purposefully stepping away when I can. It isn't a perfect exercise yet, but I am making an attempt. The pressure to always have my phone right with me or to check social media multiple times a day can't be healthy! We already have so much stress and pressure in our lives. This is one we can live without.
Our children are still very young and don't have any social media accounts. Some of their friends do and that's a personal choice every family must make on their own. I don't have any intention of letting mine have their own accounts any time soon. While we are doing more online school programs, my kids don't spend much time on the internet. They both know how computers work and they have some devices that connect to the internet, but they don't have free range. They are only allowed to connect if they ask first. Every parental lock is on the devices so they can't do anything that we can't see or check. We do allow them to use Netflix but we monitor their history, have their accounts set to "kids", and they know they must ask before watching anything new.
How do you handle internet consumption in your home? Do you have specific rules and expectations for your family?