byAntonella De Giuli
“It doesn’t matter how many friends you have on Facebook or how many followers on Twitter; they are not real friends or real fans. What counts are the people who will miss you if you are gone tomorrow.” Seth Godin
I don’t remember when it all started. Or finished. I don’t remember when the boys stopped playing, laughing, singing together, and started dedicating themselves completely to what they can no longer do without today, the smartphone and social networks.
When I went to the university, I took a long train trip every Monday and Friday and I remember that the nightmare of us weekly commuters, with a second-class pass and seating when we were lucky, were the spring school trips. Whole booked carriages and groups of kids who, laughing or singing the hits of the moment, walked on us while, piled up in the corridor, we hoped that a small seat would free up for us.
There were no cell phones. We students away from home queued together with the military in front of the SIP to call home. And in the meantime, we made new friends and laughed, even in the cold of the evening. I traveled again after university and my commuting became daily.
THE BEGINNING OF THE CHANGE
I started to realize that during school trips, the kids spent more time sitting and were strangely less noisy. The cell phone had arrive, with the first unthinkable ringtones and its amusing games, rudimentary in comparison to those of today.
But already this little tool caught everyone’s attention, so much so that everyone remained in his place and no longer wandered in search of his favorite companions. Then we moved on to the smartphone and without realizing it, we arrived among the youngest (and not only) in the competition between those who have the most beautiful model, with more functions, and with a guarantee of total safety (proof of clumsy parent). Today the smartphone for many, especially for children, represents the most important gateway to the Internet and therefore to the world. An immense and intense world, close at hand, with its beauties and seductions, but also with all its anger, its violence, and its pain. Each connection allows you to face a new journey and to experience new emotions, more or less intense, related to the experience you are living.
It would never occur to us to send a teenager around the world alone. We would never like to expose our underage child, inexperienced and still psychologically fragile, to the dangers he could confront by facing the unknown alone.
YOU MUST LEARN TO LOOK BEYOND
But sometimes we don’t feel the same kind of concern when our children, even less than teenagers, are alone with their smartphones. We think that having a mobile phone allows the kids to call us in case of difficulty and we can track them down at any time (illusion!).
Often as parents we feel calm, thinking that our children know how to differentiate between the good and the bad, and know how to keep away from what isn’t good. Sometimes that’s true, but in most cases the kids, while surfing the Internet and social networks, are immediately struck by images and words, and don’t have time to rationalize the experience and aren’t able to defend themselves. And in their solitude (friends are the ones they frequent on social networks, not those of the apartment opposite them) and precisely as teenagers, they can find themselves amplifying the emotions generated by what they have seen or read, exalting themselves or suffering intensely.
When a teenager is targeted by other teens on social networks he sees that virtual world collapse on him in the real world, with a charge of aggression and sometimes cruelty.
When a little girl, thinking of joking with her friends, takes a selfie and posts it on social media, she is not aware of how many will see it and how they will react.
When you press the send button, a thought, a photo, a video are sent to the world, inevitably generating consequences, which can range from a simple like to teasing, from a little heart to an insult. Since what happens on the Internet is not tangible, it does not seem real and if it is not real, the existence of consequences, such as the pain inflicted on other people or attracting negative attention to yourself, does not seem possible.
THERE IS A TIME WHEN PRIVACY IS NOT AN ALIBI
Teenagers do not perceive the difference between right and wrong. This is why parents, despite the constant tiredness generated by a life increasingly full of things to do, have the task of listening, observing, speaking, and supervising what their children are doing. Let’s not hide behind the concept of privacy, which is sometimes an alibi to justify our difficulty in finding the right way to speak with our children. Let us educate them to respect themselves and others and to be aware of their actions, in the real world as well as in the virtual one.
Internet and social networks are not the problem, the problem is the use made of them.