“Our children may be at risk for developing a primary attachment to electronic devices rather than human beings. And so may we. “ –Jon Kabat-Zinn
And so may we.
Maybe this is the part of the equation that has got me so flabbergasted as to how to negotiate the world of social media when it comes to my 12 year old. Maybe this is more about me and my attachments than it is about him. I know that’s what he thinks, as he asked me just yesterday, “Why can’t you let me have a normal teenager’s life instead of one you have to control?”
His use of the word “control” jumped out at me like a ninja: swift, fast and right in the gut. I’d written this word down various times in my journal in the last few weeks, intending to come back to it and explore.
Why am I so controlling?
In an attempt to convince myself that this was absolutely NOT about me, I looked for assurance on the Facebook that being controlling around his use of social media is my job. Although the outpouring of advice and interest did give me some comfort (I know I am not alone), I still don’t feel assured. I feel I’m missing the heart of the matter. The answer I’m gathering internally regarding the way to handle social media seems to be saying that there is no one answer, despite what the experts say, so stop the external search for it. No child and no family is the same. My gut is saying that these decisions aren’t concrete, but whatever they may be, they are going to involve lots of reflection and conversation, and I may have to be both creative and explicit in voicing my concerns.
Yikes, I can feel my throat constricting now.
These conversations will not be comfortable for either party. Who really wants to talk about porn and the who, how and why of making it? There is the discussion about respect for women and protection of children, but that may be easier than the even more complicated talk about love and intimacy. Why is sex so confusing?! And how does one explain predator behavior? There is the concrete “this stuff is absolutely no good,” discussion, but there are the even deeper and tougher-to-answer self-reflective questions that I must be ready to address before I ask him:
How does a person decide what to share on social media or in a text?
Why does he share it?
What is he searching for?
With whom does he share?
How sure is he of his audience?
How vulnerable does he want to make himself?
What kind of language does he want to use?
What is the image he is trying to convey?
Most of my fears (BINGO– hence my need for control) are not about him forming a relationship with a child molester or abductor, but rather they have to do with him embarrassing himself, being judged, being bullied or inadvertently bullying– by reacting impulsively or simply by being aloof or distracted while communicating. (But am I simply trying to protect him from normal, though painful, mistakes and opportunities to learn and grow?) Even more of my concern has to do with what he is NOT doing while he is on his phone: developing real-time, face-to-face relationships, spending time with his family (MOM),reading, writing, drawing, moving his body, even being bored. (It’s becoming glaringly obvious that if I don’t want his face in his phone so much, I must walk the walk).
All signs point to this dilemma truly being a great opportunity. This damn smart phone is an incredible impetus for discussion and voice finding, for the both of us. Perhaps I even share my newly discovered feelings — I AM SCARED, MAX–. He’s a sensitive and empathic human being, maybe this is the bridge to mutual understanding. Only through discussion will I be able to know how ready he is to text and to post and how ready I am to give him more or less rope. Only through self-reflection both pre and post-discussion will I be able to address my own attachment to my personal, handheld time-sucker (and all that it entails), as well as my attachment to my kids. Only through practice will talking about difficult stuff become easier, and I believe
the more we talk, the less I’ll fear, and
the less I fear the more I’ll trust.
The more I trust, the less I’ll control.
Same story. Different version.