Social media is not the problem. Parents are.

  • Parenting
  • Social media is not the problem. Parents are.

Some parents obviously have a problem with the job description and find it easier to park their kids in front of a babysitting smartphone or iPad, writes Louise Roberts from RendezView

Kate Winslet announced this week that all social media is banned in her home but is this really how to “protect” your kids? (Pic: Reuters)

Some parents obviously have a problem with the job description and find it easier to park their kids in front of a babysitting smartphone or iPad.

Outsourced, out of sight and eventually everyone is out of their minds.

And when the family structure collapses, these mums and dads ricochet in moral panic and declare that evil, corrupting social media is to blame.

If you believe the chatter, Facebook and Instagram are hypnotising our children and turning them into Like-chasing zombies. Meanwhile parents are losing control as chaos rips through the suburbs.

Youth are trapped in their bedrooms on an endless loop of taunting thigh gap images and the only way to stop the rot is to pull the plug permanently.

Hollywood actor Kate Winslet is the latest voice in this self-righteous saga, announcing this week that all social media is banned in her home and instead colouring with crayons and monopoly are the activities du jour.

The star of the new Steve Jobs film (and full points for maximum PR coverage here, Kate), she offers up a familiar platform about teenage girls.

Winslet told an interviewer: “It (social media) has a huge impact on young women’s self-esteem, because all they ever do is design themselves for people to like them. “And what comes along with that? Eating disorders.

“And that makes my blood boil. And is the reason why we don’t have social media in our house.”

Well, all Oscars aside, I’m calling BS on that.

Social media can be a mortal enemy to self-esteem but bullying and eating disorders existed long before Twitter and Snapchat became a thing.

And social media “takes control” when a parent doesn’t educate themselves or take an active interest in what their kids are scrolling and swiping.

To ban Facebook and the like is to give them an alluring scapegoat status and does nothing to educate kids about the dangers of overuse and oversharing personal information.

The Mac PowerBook did not give life to your child. You did. So if their “life” revolves around the internet, you as the disinterested, distracted parent only have yourself to blame for not building their confidence and equipping them for the real world.

Yes we are increasingly paranoid as parents and less inclined in 2015 to let out kids roam free range with time to hang out.

And up to 96 per cent of Aussie households with children under 15 have the internet at home according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This compares to 78 per cent in 2012-13.

But ostracising these public platforms does not give kids the skills to deal with their judgmental and sometimes sinister nature or the real consequence of immature posts harming future school and job opportunities.

Every keystroke is public — tell them that. You might sound a bore but it is far more effective than declaring a fatwa on Facebook until the child is 18.

This week a model from Queensland announced she was quitting social media. It was headline news even though most of us had previously never heard of her.

The Instafamous Essena O’Neill wept as she laid bare her day-to-day reality of surviving on a diet of approval from strangers.

O’Neill startled her 500,000 followers on Instagram and 260,000 on YouTube by revealing her perfect life was in fact a hot mess of insecurity and pressure.

Social media is not the problem. Parents are.

On her blog letsbegamechangers.com O’Neill wrote: “I’m crying because I needed to hear this when I was younger, heck anyone who spends hours and hours on a screen wishing they could have a ‘perfect’ life, this is for you.

“There is nothing cool about spending all your time taking edited pictures of yourself to prove to the world ‘you are enough’.

“Don’t let numbers define you. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not enough without excessive makeup, latest trends, 100+ likes on a photo, ‘a bikini body’, thigh gap, long blonde hair.”

Within 24 hours O’Neill was back on social media pleading for handouts because it would seem that being noble doesn’t pay well.

As a marketing strategy and a USP to set her apart from hundreds of other green smoothie flat-tum babes, it was quite brilliant

“At nearly 19 — with all of these followers I don’t even know what is real and what is not because I have let myself be defined by something that is so not real…” she pleaded. And so on.

This disingenuous vlogger has now achieved her purpose — global recognition — but she nonetheless rages against the machine which made all the money for her.

Social media carves an inroad into acutely private areas of our lives but it is not going to disappear.

Winslet is correct in saying that it is up to us to guide our children so they live for the moment and not just to prove something online.

But social media is not the bogeyman here. It’s the parent who gives only a sliver of attention to their child one day and then wonders why their monosyllabic offspring is unable to deal face to face with another human.

By Louise Roberts, Rendezview.

This piece originally appeared on the opinion site RendezView.com.au and has been reprinted with permission.

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