Everyone (including us!) has been talking a lot about the holiday season, spending time with loved ones, and the ideas of sharing and gift-giving lately. But today I want to look at this topic from a completely different angle – let’s consider the whole idea of friendship and “friends.”
You see, as we’ve become increasingly “social” many of the more human factors traditionally associated with socializing have evolved into something a LOT less “friendly!”
And, when we look at the direction where this is all headed, I become concerned about what the generation following us are really learning about the genuine qualities of friendship and what it truly means to be a friend.
Did you realize today, as of this very moment, throughout the world, approximately 1 in 7 individuals ON EARTH can be counted among Facebook users?! And this is just one of the growing numbers of social media outlets available to adults AND children.
In a recent move, Facebook announced they would be opening up permission for teenagers (13-17 year olds) to post status updates, videos and images that can now be viewed by ANYONE! Prior to this move, this information could only be seen by “friends” or “friends of friends.” To add injury to this insult, Facebook can also appropriate ANY of the posted material to use in their online advertising.
Now, while on the face of this latest proclamation it may seem inappropriate and putting too much control into the hands of not-yet-fully-developed young humans… it goes SO far beyond that! First, according to the author, Emily Bazelon, of the book “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy” allowing this degree of unrestricted freedom to kids this age hits squarely in their neurological weak spot since they simply do not have the type of impulse control you find in a fully-developed adult brain.
However, secondly…and of so much greater importance to parents like us, thanks to the spread of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Kik Messenger – and the list seems to literally grow daily, about half of all online child sexual exploitation occurs through the social networks!
In a study recently conducted by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, an agency of the British government, CEO Peter Davies acknowledged the powerful potential for good, saying the medium is not to blame; human behavior is where the blame should be placed.
Unfortunately, this power for igniting positive worldwide awareness and action on behalf of charitable, social, artistic and educational causes has become a double-edged sword. Unlike some of the other networks, Facebook requires users to post under their real identities – exposing these youth to easier tracking, identification and possibly a lifelong online “record” of some youthful indiscretions.
Look, Friend, I know how quickly the world keeps changing and it can be really difficult to always keep up with the “latest thing.” Just looking at the explosion of Facebook alone in the last 9 years staggers the imagination:
- 2004: 1 million users
- 2005: 5.5 million users
- 2006: 12 million users
- 2007: 50 million users
- 2008: 100 million users
- 2009: 350 million users
- 2010: 608 million users
- 2011: 845 million users
- 2012: 1.06 billion users
- YTD 2013: 1.2 BILLION USERS
This social change is unavoidable, so as parents we just have to be sure to prepare the kids in our life for what they’re going to encounter out there in cyberspace. And as a part of this “online preparedness” we’re imparting (along with some good, old-fashioned common sense) we also need to share the REAL meaning of friendship!
Just because someone “friends” you on some cyber-timeline does NOT mean this person is really your friend! Hearing someone boasting, “I’ve got 20,00 ‘friends’!” most probably means they actually have no idea of the meaning of friendship. Be sure your kids know this and share stories about what your true friends have done with you and for you throughout the entire life of that friendship. Seeing and hearing tangible examples of the values you want to pass on to the kids in your life will carry so much more weight than a few online “Like” clicks!
And while you’re sharing these pearls of wisdom with the next generations, don’t keep it to yourself! Share this information with your friends, family, colleagues, neighbours and, yes, even with your social networks on Facebook and Twitter. Please don’t forget me either – I want to hear your idea of friendship, something amazing a friend did for you or what a special friend means to you!
Thats it from me for today – make sure you really build some deep friendships that last.
Have a blessed weekend and speak next week.
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