Friday, August 31, 2012

Facebook Moms and Twitter Teens

     So I'm sitting at a Muscle Maker Grill sipping on a four berry smoothie right now. (Totally recommend it, by the way.) New ammo for my Bad Mom Status: I just left my thirteen year old alone standing on a line with about 30 other girls her age (and younger and older) outside a converted church concert space where she was waiting to have a pre-concert VIP meet/greet with the boys from Hollywood Ending during their Boys of Summer Tour. As we were pulling into the parking lot my daughter says, "Oh, there's Melanie!" as if this was her long lost friend. Yet, this is the first time she will be meeting Melanie as she is just one of my daughters 100+ Twitter followers. I waited in the parking lot a fair while chatting with some other moms who were also at that "I'm watching you but not so close that I'll embarrass you" distance from the line of expectant hair-straightened teens. Within ten minutes my daughter was laughing and chatting with her "long lost" friends she had just met.
     I wasn't all that thrilled when my daughter first started tweeting. The concept seemed a bit odd. Why write your thoughts and feelings to a non-discerning public? "But we all like the same bands, mom." Yes, true. But why do they care that you just punched your sister, or ate spaghetti? To be fair, she really has tempered some of the random tweets and does focus the nonsense to band related items, as well as all things Harry Potter and Andrew Garfield.
     When my daughter first started tweeting she did it to follow a few small unknown bands. One "band" Exclamation Point is this pair of 16-year old boys in Maryland who do a UStream every Sunday night, ostensibly to preview their new songs, but after watching it once with her, it was more to just be dorky 16-year old boys with new tech toys. My daughter had a small heart attack throughout late July and early August whenever we were not near an Internet ready computer screen around 6:30pm. Unfortunately for Exclamation Point, my daughter has now moved on and considers those guys "lacking in talent." And I couldn't agree more, but I'm thankful she came to that conclusion herself.
     The new boys on the Tweet Deck are Hollywood Ending, Panic At The Disco, All Star Weekend, Before You Exit, and Marianas Trench, to name a few. All of whom I have given approval to come through the speakers on my car. In fact, I actually sing along some times. I "follow" my daughter on my cell phone so I can keep tabs on what she's tweeting, but I have to be honest, when we get in the range of 20+ tweets in a day, I'm giving a pretty cursory look at the "Toby's so cute I could die" tweets.
     As a Facebook Mom, I can't really harp against social networking. I do not subscribe to the "shelter my kids from cyber world" mentality because, like it or not, it's there, it's powerful and if I want that power to be used for good, I had better start guiding her and cautioning her on proper use. Technology Education guru Will Richardson once said at a teacher workshop I attended, that it's not about how to keep your kids off the internet, it's about making sure they have a positive appearance on it. So I do subscribe to these thoughts. But the difference between Twitter and Facebook, at least the difference between the way my daughter uses Twitter and I use Facebook-- is that I personally know the friends on my Facebook. So when I post a status update it isn't to some indiscriminate fan-base. When my daughter tweets she is actually tweeting TO the boys in the band and all their fans as well. So we've had to have a couple of talks about the digital impression you make with your 140-characters.
     This is kind of scary territory, I know. I've been in disciplinary meetings with young girls at the boarding school where I teach who have been sexting their new boyfriends and I've had to open these young women's eyes to the fact that now their private body parts are quite likely forwarded to a whole male dorm. With the internet there has to be that constant conscious awareness that what you are doing is not in any way private. That's the guidance as parents we have to give (and remember ourselves!)-- teaching our daughters how to make a positive digital impression. Believe me, I am quite sure I will be butting up against these teen digital nightmares more. But so far, knock on some pixels, most of my daughter's digital presence has been positive and innocent, and yet still amazingly powerful.  I mean, case in point, she went to this concert not really knowing anyone. At least not in real life. But I decided she'd be just fine when I looked over at the line of fangirls and my daughter's Twitter friend was braiding my daughter's hair, like they all had been sleepover camp buddies last month.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Your posts are always so insightful. We never had to worry about this sort of disciplinary action at our boarding school (*notice the censor*), 16 years ago (can you believe it's been that long?). I find myself constantly remarking to other people, generally my age or older "we never had a cell phone, Twitter, Facebook, etc. growing up", or "I can't believe an 11 year old has a cell phone". I imagine my alma mater has a whole new set of rules now for the internet, it's usage, and cell phone usage, right? What are some of those rules? Are they similar to are old study hours? Curious. You sound like a great Facebook mom, by the way :).
    Bridget '96.