A recent storm resulted in week long power outages for many in the northeast, including private boarding schools. They remained open and continued classes with the help of generators, but the internet was out. This caused much angst amongst students who were cut off from Facebook! Complaints of boredom were heard far and wide. Miraculously, after a couple of days of adjusting to being without this habit forming, constant companion called Facebook, kids started to read books, play games, and talk to each other face to face.
Are kids missing out on life because of this Facebook habit? We’ve all seen kids so involved in their virtual online world of friends (many of which they may not know in real life) that the rest of the world seems forgotten. They are glued to Facebook at the expense of experiencing the real world around them. This past summer, a friend’s daughter wanted to stay in the hotel room in Vail, Colorado on Facebook rather than go horseback riding. Her parents put their foot down and the family all went horseback riding in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. The daughter needless to say had a great and memorable time that she might have missed if her parents had allowed her to stay in the hotel room on Facebook.
Facebook isn’t going anywhere… and it’s unrealistic for parents to say no to Facebook entirely when your child reaches the age of 13 since this is the way kids communicate with each other and keep up with their friends – who’s doing what, who went where, and status updates. But as parents we do need to put our foot down and at least make sure our teens are taking time for other healthy activities and to enjoy life’s experiences. Having your child take part in a school club or sport, playing an instrument, building a model airplane are experiences they will miss if they spend all their time on Facebook. They need to live life not just be part of a virtual life. Kids don’t always know what’s good for them and that’s why we as parents need to step in on occasion to redirect them and help them make better choices.
Facebook can easily become a huge time waster and bad habit. Kids go on Facebook and before they know it they’ve spent hours perusing and posting pictures, posting comments on others walls. Kids need to learn self control and to self limit but often need a bit of help from parents since it’s so easy to get sucked into spending hours on the computer. Set limits on your kid’s computer time. They will find other activities when the computer is turned off, although they may try to convince you that you’re ruining their lives. Make family time for interesting activities. Every personal adventure, every family activity creates a memory for your child. What will your child remember if their lives are spent on the computer and on Facebook? What life’s skills are they missing out on if they spend hours on Facebook?