Growing up in the digital age

ocean beach

Ocean Beach, San Diego. (Photo by Jayla Lee)

Let’s face it – growing up can be hard. Especially in the digital age.

I still remember as a preteen, all the hours I spent trying to take new profile pictures for my MySpace account, and sitting on AOL Instant Messenger rather than calling up my friends to hang out (even though they lived down the street). It boggles me that I can recall my digital life in great detail as a child. Even more so, how a simple click of a button or typing of a few words could change someone’s life – their self-esteem, grades, and friendships.

We live in two worlds – real life and online. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try going an entire day without using any Internet devices. (I did that last week, and it was eye opening.) With that being said, we have the opportunity to set an example for our younger generation in the way we navigate the Internet, social media, and even show an interest in their online uses.

I had the pleasure of interviewing my fellow SDSU Journalism and Media Studies colleague Caleb Eames, who is a parent of three. He recently allowed his eldest son to sign up for Instagram – as long as he could follow him, too.

“I decided that if I was going to simply ban him from social media, it would likely push him to do it behind my back at some point,” Caleb says. “However, if I interact with him, follow him on Instagram, and do it with him, I’m more likely to be able to influence him and to teach him.”

After the interview, Caleb invited me to a local film screening of Screenagers, a documentary themed on growing up in the digital age. It takes us on the journey of mother and physician Delaney Ruston deciding whether or not to buy her daughter an iPhone. According to the film, the average kid spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens, excluding homework time. It also explains the lack of capacity for children to demonstrate self-control over using their devices – something that will develop later on, after they already establish online habits. Near the end, it shows how parents set examples. Sometimes good, and sometimes with room for improvement (we’re all human). The point is, kids are learning from us.

I am by no means a parent, and do not know the first thing about parenting. However, I am a young 20-something year old with a bank of information to share. I understand the insecurities and affirmations from social media, how to use it, and am on the other end now as a researcher and teaching associate for Social Media in the Digital Age. After consulting Dr. Schmitz Weiss this week, I further defined my goals for my business plan:

  • To aggregate research, tutorials, and insights on social media, cyberbullying, teaching, and parenting
  • Create easily digestable resources
  • Make them available on a Parents Online YouTube channel and blog

I am advancing my plan to launch Parents Online to assist in any way I can. The Internet has the capability to enrich our lives. My hope is that our young generation can find a balance between our two worlds, learn a lot, and break the mold for what Screenagers and other findings have already shown us.