Making Friends Without Facebook
Back when I was a child, I didn’t have to send a friend request in order to become someone’s friend. Now, when I see kids with their heads buried in laptops, or texting on cell phones, it disturbs me to think of how technology has changed the way our kids socialize.
Social networking is enabling children to become extremely unsocial, and I think it’s changing society for the worse. If the only socialization our kids learn is from cyberspace, friendships will become less valuable in their lives and as disposable as e-mail.
Should we allow our kids to learn that all you need to do to make and keep friends is to click “Accept friend request,” and then “Unfriend” or click on “Block user” weeks or month later? Friendships then become fleeting and easy to discard without a second thought.
It also causes this all-about-me mentality, prompting many children to grow up without consideration for others because they haven’t learned to properly interact with others. And that’s another issue: Instead of congratulating each other on accomplishments or talking about the school play, they just have to click the “Like” button.
When I was a child, we didn’t have cyberspace. The only space we knew was where the astronauts went and the space in our back yards. We didn’t meet in chat rooms. We met at the park or the playground.
And we didn’t just talk — we played and we interacted and we learned about the world around us through experiences together. Will this generation of kids will miss out on that socialization because of their dependence on technology to manage their friendships?
Here are three tips to help your kids better value their friendships.
1. Balance cyberspace with the real world. If your kids text and use social networks, make sure they actually get together with their friends face to face once a week. Make your home available, even if their friends simply come over to share a pizza.
2. Limit keyboard time. A generation ago, parents would limit the amount of television their kids were allowed to watch. Place time limits on the time your kids spend texting or online in the same way.
3. Set an example. Show your kids how you interact with your friends, and talk about the value those long-term friendships have in your life. If they see that you have close and fulfilling friendships with others, they’ll emulate those kinds of relationships in their lives.
It’s ironic to me how the existence of all these different communication technologies actually has managed to make us feel more distant from each other. We all have multiple cell phones, e-mail addresses and online profiles, but somehow we feel more far apart than ever before. Maybe we need to teach our kids to put the cell phone and laptop down, and go outside and play with their friends.
Marilyn Randall is the author of a series of children’s books on friendships, including “For Faithful Friends,” “The Best of Best Friends” and “Share From the Heart.” For more information, visit www.marilynrandall.com.