Kids, Social Networking and a neighborhood BBQ…

June 6, 2007 at 7:35 am 1 comment

On memorial day I hosted a BBQ at my house (nothing new – it was my 2nd BBQ party that weekend).  My neighbors (J & S I’ll call them) were over and all the kids were at play.  The 4 of us sat on the deck, wine in hand and visiting as usual.  “J” works for HP and “S” recently became the managing director of a very cool non-profit called Explorations in Math here in Seattle.  There is no question that I’m a web2.0 addict, but that said, it rarely is part of my daily dialog with family, friends, neighbors, etc.  There are plenty of other important and or entertaining topics to discuss at any given dinner party. 

Both my wife and I are regular bloggers, so “S” asked us how our blogging was going.  She doesn’t read blogs and was curious what we blog about.  Her impression of blogging was people just talking about their daily lives and that frankly she couldn’t be less interested in reading random people’s daily update blogs or taking the time to author her own.  In fairness, it seems to me this is the majority of blogs…99.9% of which I find completely worthy of ignoring. 

At this moment I asked them if they had heard of Twitter.  I think I was reveling in the fact that if they felt this way about Blogs, they’d really think Twitter was non-sense.  Describing Twitter, “S” reacted as expected – this is even less interesting.  To my surprise, “J’s” interest perked up.  He made the quick leap, which I liked, to the fact that there are a lot of people he’d be interesting in keeping tabs on, but really doesn’t want to talk to on the phone very often.   Our wives (probably very accurately) both thought this was very male of us.  It astounds my wife that I can have 1-2 conversations a year with some friends and that is enough and totally normal, whereas she talks with some of her friends nearly every day (a fact that I’m equally astounded by)!!

This lead to an discussion about MySpace.  My wife told the story of another group of friends who have recently come to parental battle with their 13 year old daughter who has a MySpace page.  The classic parent story – you CAN’T have one, she figured out how to do it anyway…they found out…explosion occurs.  This scenario has played out as long as there have been parents and kids.

Date:  54 BC

Og’s mother:  “Og, you will NOT hunt wooly mammoths until you are at least 14!!”

Og’s father (a few hours later):  “Hey, where’s my good spear?  Where is Og?”

“S” reflected on her solidarity with our friends stance on the MySpace page for their 13 year old.  I then told them about a speech I recently gave to a group of 40+ year old business leaders where I asked the following questions:

  • How many of you have a MySpace page? (maybe 3 of 40+ hands went up)
  • How many of you have kids with a MySpace page?  (maybe 12-15 hands went up)
  • How many of the rest of you really don’t know if your kids have a MySpace page? (nervous chuckles and lots of hands)

There is no question that social networking offers some serious dangers for children.  (I tagged some online resources here).  You are never as anonymous as you think you are.  Check your online photos:  Do they include photos of your children?  Does your house # and or street appear in the background of a photo?  Even those of us who are inherently cautious are likely not cautious enough. 

It’s a serious issue, but you won’t stop your kids from utilizing social networking online – and in fact, you’d likely be doing them a disservice long term to not enable them to be a part of this important new medium.  But, you need to do so like most things, by clearly helping your children understand your concerns, what the risks are and how to do so safely.  Oversight is definitely important, but don’t push their online actions into the underground – keep them out and discussed at the dinner table. 

Good luck.

Sean

Footnote:  This conversation with “S” led to an exciting conversation about how her non-profit might be able to integrate social networking features into their non-profit mission!!  What a natural connection!  Damn that was a fun BBQ!

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Another Podcast goes live…how I got started on community… Thank you Forum One for organizing the Community Unconference…

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Sue Waters  |  June 7, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Sounds like a great BBQ. I must have the wrong friends.

    My friends that come over and socialize would not be interested in talking Web 2.0. The friends that are interested in Web 2.0, visit with their computer dragging behind them (sometimes their entire desktop PC) and then refuse to socialise.

    Looks like I need to check out your wife’s blog because there is no way I believe she is truly into Web 2.0. My friends have learnt that there is no point ringing me as I am not interested in talking on the phone (that is if I even bother to answer it).

    BTW My friend’s teenage daughter was horrified that I knew what MySpace was and mortified by the thought I might have a MySpace account.

    Reply

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