Exploring what parenting & social media are teaching us

By Anne Collier

My blog NetFamilyNews.org is less and less about tech parenting and more and more about just parenting (and in every other way working with) children and young people in this networked world. That’s because – over the 15 years I’ve been on this beat, this exploration – it has become clearer and clearer that this time of discontinuity (and how we’re dealing with it) is so much more about our humanity than our technology. In social media, it’s ourselves we’re sharing; it’s not the text, photos, videos, likes, comments, and followers that matter so much as the people behind them. We just get so distracted by the newness of this user-generated media environment in which so much of us and our lives is shared. There is more sharing, certainly; there might also be more self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and social-emotional intelligence emerging, depending on how we choose to see this time and its media.

So that said, give yourself 23-and-a-half minutes to watch this profound, deeply loving talk about (non-tech) parenting by Andrew Solomon. It was posted this past week and has already been viewed, as of this writing, 249,520 times. Of particular interest to me in the context of social literacy and identity exploration by young people online and offline was what he says about self-acceptance, family acceptance, and social acceptance.

Solomon’s talking about what he learned during the years of research for his latest book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. It’s about parents raising exceptional, in some cases exceptionally challenged, children. Toward the end of the years of interviews and research he put into it, he decided he wanted to start a family, Solomon says in the talk. So people would ask him, “How can you have children when you’re studying everything that could go wrong?” His answer was, “I’m not studying everything that could go wrong. What I’m studying is how much love there can be even when everything appears to be going wrong.”

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