Back in the mid-70s we had one phone in our house. A period-appropriate avocado-green dial phone that hung on the wall in the kitchen with a 50’ cord that constantly knotted, it was our family’s sole communication to the outside world. There was an actual busy signal when the phone was in use and the parental phrase that I remember most as a teenager was…GET OFF THE PHONE!!! But that was then…
Today it’s estimated that 92% of people under the age of 30 choose to text when conveying messages or asking for information. Apple says that the majority of its iPhone users use the devices primarily for functions other than for making a phone call. I can tell you that in our home, texting is common; from right within the house! Our 17 year-old will text from another floor, “let me know when dinner is ready.”
Last year in Adelaide, Australia, two young girls became lost in a storm-water drain and promptly updated their Facebook statuses from their mobile phones asking to be rescued! While a simple call to 911 would have been faster, their first-line thought was that more people would be immediately available to read their update.
Facebook status updates, inbox messages and real-time chat is how our kids move their lives forward on a social and communicative platform. As one forward-thinking school principal suggested recently, “social networking is their pen and paper and we can’t dismiss it as a trivial time waster in their lives.” And, it is! But to many parents and even educators, it’s seen as the destruction of time-tested, fundamental social skills and graces, and the breakdown of all that we’ve grown up with on the level of communication. The conversations that abound in my Facebook 101 parent workshops are around why our kids can’t just pick up a phone and call their friends, or plan a party on email or simply stop by and pay their friends a visit. And our kids, in turn, can’t figure out why their parents just don’t get with the times (sound familiar, parents? – telling our parents back in the day) and pick up an iPhone, BlackBerry or Droid and text or status update to keep in touch.
Alas, when you throw into the mix the fastest growth curve in technology and communication tools the world has ever seen with the traditional circle of life, well, you have a chasm of a communication gap, literally.
As one of our friend’s daughter’s said to them when she headed off to her freshman year at Queens University this past September, “Mom and Dad, if you want to keep in touch with me, you’re GOING to have to get Facebook.” There were no other options.
Social Media and social networking aren’t going away and it’s not a fad that our kids will “get over.” Rather than resisting and belittling the technology that is changing the world, and how our kids communicate and move their lives forward, it’s incumbent upon us to embrace and join in the revolution. After all, we don’t have to love it, we just have to know how to use it. Social Networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the new telephone.