The Long and Winding Road: Children, filters and chaos

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Children, filters and chaos

I have lost count of the number of initiatives launched in schools to teach children the dangers of social media abuse. The problem is that they are bolting the stable door after the horse has gone.

Social media usage is ubiquitous, we are well and truly stuck with it and the issues it raises today will only get more pronounced as our children get older. For people born in the 60s and 70s and to some extent the 80s the multi-media experience is novel and something we still hold in esteem. For the ‘digital natives’ the magnitude of what is within their control is lost, they are in many ways ‘digitally naive’. There is such a thing as empathy which the older generations tend to have a little more of when we get on the open platform of social media and espouse our views. Don’t misunderstand me here, young people can and do demonstrate empathy but all too often the filter of determining the impact of what they say is turned off when the adrenaline starts pumping.

I spend a lot of time on social media but my activity might not suggest I am an avid user, I tend to read, reflect and gather information more than I publish my every thought. Many is the time I have been quite irritated by a post and felt the need to reply BUT decided not to because the result would be a online fight with no chance of a productive outcome. It is my belief that having an opinion does not give one the right or the compulsion to ram it down everyone else’s throat, sadly it seems not everyone has the same opinion. It is clear to me that the very youngest of our children do not understand the need for discernment in their social media usage.

Schools are constantly battling the problems which come in the front door each morning after being primed the night before on social media. The normal course of action is to ban, to punish, to warn and to make sweeping militaristic rule changes to quash the possibility of things getting out of hand. This does not work because taking something away only serves to rile the masses and have them fight to get it back. Chaos ensues.

As our children age we will see more and more ill-considered publishing of thoughts, more and more personal attacks and more  and more visceral venting which ultimately may kill the goose that laid the golden egg

Words are powerful, they stay with us for many years. Children are unaware of their impact on others as they demonstrate their gauche attempts to define themselves. The problem we face is not to warn them of the dangers but to educate them on how to think before they start typing. This is a whole bigger problem than setting out rules to combat internet trolling and grooming

As the grown ups in this conundrum we should seriously think about who we want to be communicating with in ten years time and whether they have the social skills to respond appropriately. Our businesses depend on this medium , we must protect our future users by being aware that the damage children cause to each other on social media will last infinitely longer than the problems us oldies faced in our day.

We have to actively teach children how to understand the long term and far reaching effects of publishing their thoughts , thoughts which they themselves may come to regret in  later years.


see you on the long and winding road……. Patrick

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