Social Media Dads, Social Media Moms

Guest Post by Social Media Dad, Jonathan Fields, from Awake At The Wheel

13 Comments 29 July 2008

This guest post comes from Jonathan Fields. Jonathan is the author of Awake At The Wheel and the twelfth in my series featuring social media dads.

Kids Connecting

I’ve always had this deep desire to show my 7-year old daughter, Jesse, just how interconnected we are to others around the world. Living in NYC has made the task quite a bit easier. It seems at some point, someone from nearly every culture ends up here. And we get to meet them.

But, the power of social media to demonstrate this point and fuel her exploration really hit home the other day as she strolled in from camp. I was sitting at the dining room table, finishing off a few quick thoughts for a blog post, she came running over for her post-camp hug and kiss. Then she turned to my screen and saw twitter open with all the photos of the folks in my timeline and began to ask questions about each.

“That one lives in Australia,” I shared, “and this person is in Malaysia. Oh, and here’s a friend from North Carolina and another in Spain.” In an instant we’d found ourselves gathered around the dining room table, chit-chatting with friends from all over the world. This simple tool made clear to her how technology can bring together people from all walks of life. It allowed her to see, with her own eyes, how immediately connected we are. And, it also revealed how similar we all are.

And, though I make a point of extracting myself from work when she’s home, it’s not unusual for Jesse to ask me to take a quick peek at who’s on twitter, just so she can see the faces and giggle at the messages (at least the ones I pre-screen). In fact, seeing me blogging and dancing around a variety of social media led her to ask me whether we could create a blog for her. And, with my trusty Macbook Pro in hand, we did just that (it’s passworded).

The whole experience makes me wonder how powerful it might be to have a twitter that was devoted exclusively to fostering conversation among kids around the world in a safe, monitored environment.

Imagine the impact.

Millions of kids, forming impressions, bonds and experiences not through information filtered and colored by the grown-ups who provide access, but rather by their own, direct experience. Imagine them simply having the ability to invite friends from all over the world to hang out and chat. To ask questions about life, relationships, values or even simple daily activities.

To me, if there is a killer application for social media, it doesn’t lie in the realm of grown-ups. It’s not about business or marketing or content-sharing. It’s in the opportunity to allow kids from radically different cultures around the world to connect, to form their own opinions and break down barriers that have created artificial separations for decades or even centuries.

How different, I wonder, might the next generation be if we could foster such an experience?

Follow Jonathan on Twitter here.

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13 Comments so far

  1. Mike Wilton says:

    Great post! As a father of twins I have often thought about how the internet will change their social experiences when they are older. Since they are only 9 months old I have some time until I have to REALLY think about it. But I like your thoughts on how social media with kids could introduce them to different cultures and different people without the barriers created by adults and society.

  2. Gina says:

    I am curious and intrigued about your vision for this.. how this would exist “free from parental prejudice” and yet “safe and monitored”. I have four kids spanning the age spectrum from 7 to 18, and have seen how they already make use of social networks, making global connections… it’s awesome, but not always appropriate for the younger set.

  3. Tony Maro says:

    Great post indeed, however you present a paradox. You want a social netwok “free from parental prejudices” yet “safe.”. The very act of keeping content safe for kids requires applying a form of prejudice.

    I’m prejudiced against R-rated movies. We don’t watch them in my house, not even my wife and I. You don’t know how many times I hear “but its really not a bad movie, you should let your kids go see it.”

  4. Hey gang,

    No doubt, putting together such a network would have many layers of challenge, balancing overlaying parental judgments and filters and keeping it safe being two big issues.

    An interesting model to look at, though, is one of the largest virtual communities for kids, Club Penguin, where, I believe, millions of kids interact. In the CP world, there is a very clear code of conduct posted and each kid agrees to monitor and report violations of the code. For a wold kids culture social network, I could see a volunteer board of parents and kids establishing and reviewing the framework and potentially allowing certain permissions.

    From what I understand, it actually works very well in CP. Over time, kids can even take online tests and apply to become the “hall monitors” or something like that.

    Again, not saying I have anywhere near the answers, but isn’t it an amazing questions and opportunity to explore? I wonder might happen if we gave our kids more freedom and the opportunity to form their opinions not only through our input as parents, but their own direct experience.

    Sometimes I wonder if we give kids too little credit and, in doing so, limit their involvement in life? It’s a tough balance, but certainly one worth grappling with.

  5. Gina says:

    >>Sometimes I wonder if we give kids too little credit and, in doing so, limit their involvement in life?

    Ah yes.. why we un/homeschool. Check out Daniel Greenberg’s book, (founder of the Sudbury Valley School) “Free at Last” , or John Holt, or here: http://openconnections.org (where our guys go). There’s a lot of folks out there giving kids the trust and respect they deserve.

    And, yeah, we like Club Penguin, too..

  6. Simon Slade says:

    I never quite thought of social media and the impact it would have on young people, but you make some very good points. I think “the next generation” is going to be smarter, grow up faster and be “less innocent,” and probably will be more adept at multi-taking with more brain power.

  7. afg says:

    I’m surprised no one’s said this yet! We don’t NEED a Twitter specifically for kids! To create one would be ridiculous. Kids are perfectly capable of using the regular Twitter already. Additionally, creating an entirely new Twitter would increase the gap between kids and adults, when the point, as Jonathan said in the article, is to bring people from all walks of life (including different ages) closer together.

  8. under18 says:

    Wow, I’d be able to form my OWN bonds and experiences? And ask questions about relationships and even values? Just imagine! Because as it is I’m not at all capable of doing those things.

    (By the way, I already have Twitter and AIM and I’m not really sure what the difference would be here except that you’d censor both what I can say and what I can read.)

  9. kristin greenberg says:

    It seems to me that kids have always been doing just that - breaking down barriers and relating to the world in whole new ways. Problem is, these things more often than not first scare, confuse and/or alienate grown ups.

    I’m the mother of two - a young teen boy and a tween girl. It’s been fascinating for me to watch them literally grow up with the Internet; they were toddlers during the time of dial-up, and as broad band has made the net more robust and functional, they too have grown into more sophisticated beings.

    They’ve never known a time where you couldn’t go online - and education about internet safety has been as integral to my parenting as teaching them to buckle-up and brush their teeth.

    In just the past few years, my kids have graduated from Club Penguin and have transitioned into different interactive, global communities.

    My son’s current favorite is Xbox, where he’s regularly playing and chatting with other kids from around the world. Just yesterday he was gaming with a group of kids from France. [Yes, there are lots of grown-ups on Xbox, too but it’s amazing how the age groups seem to self-segregate.]

    My daughter went first to Weworld.com - a more grown up version of Club Penguin, but still supposedly anonymous (though we’ve had some issues with real-life “friends” posting identifiable information). She’s now moved on to Facebook, but connects only with people she actually knows in the real world.

    I consider myself pretty tech savvy - but my kids’ tech knowledge is starting to eclipse mine. IDK, perhaps it’s just the way it’s always been between kids and grown ups? Seems to me that kids will form their own experiences organically - grown ups can foster, encourage and even provide the platforms, but ultimately, each generation seems to claim its own unique ways to relate to the world.

  10. Gretchen says:

    What an awesome concept! How i would have loved to have this type of experience as a kid. Difficult to set up, maintain, and monitor but a fabulous chance for children to interact around the world. Its like the turbo charged version of pen pals, which frankly never worked well because the length of time required to pen and snail mail letters frankly is greater than most adults attention span now! The instantaneous ability of the internet to get feedback from others is exactly what kids want….

  11. tom says:

    My mind immediately thinks “How would you keep kids safe from online predators? How would you validate the identify of kids participating?” Maybe a program that is overseen at school in the classroom. Like a twitter class exchange program with a school in another city, state, or country. Set up and monitored by teachers. Sort of like when I was a kid we had a pen pal program in school and exchanged letters from kids in another state.


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