My phone rings in the middle of the day from my daughter’s middle school and I hear the voice of her school counselor on the other end. I put my conference call on hold to figure out why she sounded so concerned and confused.
My daughter was in her office crying uncontrollably and telling everyone she wanted to go home because she couldn’t handle negativity. This was not her normal happy personality. The girl the counselor was familiar with would laugh and smile all the time; she was so surprised.
I ended my work conference call and went to my daughter’s school to figure out what happened. After asking a few probing questions, I learned that the source of her sadness was something that happened on social media. She was best friends with a classmate one day and the next day the friend was very mean to her because of a rumor that was started on social media.
This is a challenge that comes up a lot for middle schoolers because the girls have to worry not only about their puberty concerns and keeping their grades acceptable, but also a social media aspect that many of us raising daughters cannot relate to. We did not have to worry about the threat of rumors being started on social media or cope with the negative impacts on our self-image because of pictures online. Nor did we have to suffer in a virtual world of judgment while trying to embrace our individuality.
Social media is not going away anytime soon, so we need to give our girls tools that will help them navigate in their era by leveraging lessons from the past, current experiences shared, and future opportunities.
My daughter and I grew up in different environments during different time periods and there are cultural differences between us that have a larger impact on our ability to understand one another quickly.
A few approaches that have worked so far for my daughter and I are:
- Recognizing the cultural difference — take more time explaining the reasons behind issues and making sure we are on the same page
- Reducing the time allowed online
- Keeping things simple — only worry about things that are in her control
- Daily morning mantras — “Do your best, forget the rest”
Do you have any experiences or opportunities to share that will help prepare our girls for success in their social media saturated world?
Originally published at www.citybornsouthernliving.com on April 5, 2017.