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We Are Addicted to Connection. Why Being Online is Good for Kids.

online kids

Commercials don’t usually make us cry. Or make us laugh. We rarely share commercials through social media, because they are just that. Commercials.

“We’re on to you, companies,” we say. “We see what you’re doing there with your cute puppies or attractive people in jeans we can’t afford.”

And we only watch as much as necessary to get us through to the YouTube cat video we can’t start our day without, and quickly forget all about them.

So when a commercial sparks conversation, especially from a brand we are already fankids of, we notice.

Before the holidays, Apple launched an iPad commercial (yes it has been a long time since we’ve posted anything, thank you for noticing..). I saw it shared a few times on Facebook and although I knew it was designed to sell a product, one we already own several of, I watched. And then I ran upstairs to make Scott watch. And then I made everyone else I could find watch…

In the commercial, called Misunderstood, we see a family holiday gathering. Everyone is doing fun family stuff. Sledding, building a snow man, sharing meals… good times. And there is a boy, a young teen, who spends the whole time everything is going on around him looking at his iPhone. Toward the end of the commercial, they gather together as a family, and he connects his phone to the TV and we see he was really filming and editing the whole time. Creating a beautiful movie memory as a gift to his family. At this point, there are hugs and tears and smiles. In the commercial and on my face.

The commercial started something wonderful. It started a conversation about an issue most of us face today.  Either with our own hands firmly grasping our beloved phones or as parents. Watching our children do not as we say, but rather as we do. Staring happily at their own devices, sometimes, if not always, during times very much like what Apple showed. Times when we are meant to be “present”.

After we watched the video, Scott sent me a fantastic article about connection and teens. The article is called “Don’t Blame Your Social Media if Your Teen is Unsocial. It’s Your Fault,” and you should read it.

“Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other,” Boyd says. “They’re not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so they’ve moved it online.”

When we were kids, the opportunities to hang out with our peers were so much more, everywhere… weren’t they? After school on the street. At the mall. It seems as though there was more wondering, and less planning. More time for doing nothing together. Maybe I am romanticizing it. But I know at 12 and 13 I was already spending my evenings on the phone with friends for hours and hours. Just talking. About nothing.  Not much different than what my son is doing on his iTouch right now as I type.

As people, we need other people. And in today’s world of hand sanitizer and home security, we find one another any way we can.  Social is just the record store on the corner for today’s kids. They need it, and sometimes we need it too. I know social saved me when I was home with three young children and couldn’t always make it out to meet friends in person. Unplugging and sanity could not coexist for me…let alone unplugging and happiness.

In the commercial, we find out he’s using his phone to capture the experience and create a gift for his family. It’s touching and surprising and something a commercial almost never is – thought provoking. If he had been chatting with a friend the whole time and missed Christmas, would we feel differently at the end of the video? If the phone had been a camera, would it change our reaction? What if his friend has been ill and he’d been helping him through a challenging time?  As a parent, at what point in the video did you say, “I would have made him put that thing away!”

The what ifs are endless really.

The point is, the device and the way we are drawn to it, is not the issue. It’s always the why and the how we use tech that shapes our experiences. For all time, we will have an instinct to connect with others. As parents, it’s our job to understand how our children are finding their way to community, and make sure they have the tools to manage their place in it successfully.

What do you think? Has our overprotectiveness and concern over “stranger danger” driven our kids online to meet a fundamental need? Did you think the teen in the commercial was really playing Angry Birds most of the time? Leave us a comment, and let us know what you think.

 

 

 

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