Instagram, FaceBook, SnapChat, YouTube and Twitter are just a few types of familiar social media. They are convenient ways of staying in touch, viewing photos, gaining information and keeping current. However, deciding how much time on digital devices is enough for children, controlling the contacts and internet safety of one’s child and cyber-bulling are worries for parents.
These parents may not have grown up with social media but probably latched onto it when they were in high school or college and now, most are active users for communication and information. Many may find it difficult to stay on top of the latest technology, while even their youngest child easily adapts to all forms of technology without fear or anxiety – it just comes naturally. Children automatically know how to use and enjoy the benefits of instant approval (likes) from friends — but might often be hurt, tormented and abused by social media contacts. How does a parent keep up with the latest technology and encourage and understand its use while protecting their child from the negatives of social media — the hurt if they don’t get enough likes or have as many friends as others on Facebook, the negative self-esteem that comes from mean comments about their photos or what they are wearing? Then there is the ultimate misuse of social media — cyber-bullying that could lead to depression, anger, heartache and suicide.
On May 2, from 9 a.m. – noon, Potomac Presbyterian Church, 10301 River Road, will be hosting a free seminar for adults (parents, grandparents, and anyone involved with children and teens) that will deal with the topic “Social Media: The Good, The Bad, The Selfie.” The featured speaker will be Sarah Brooks, who blogs on such topics as parenting to faith to social media. Her blog is called “Life as of Late.” She is also a parent who is also dealing with the difficulties of raising children in the digital age.
“My intent is to dig a little deeper into the impact these sites can have on your kids. To start thinking about how to safeguard children’s hearts and minds against what appears to a 12-year-old to be concrete numerical evidence about their value and popularity,” she said.
Potomac Presbyterian members Cyndy and Paul Mamalian, parents of three children, ages 7 - 13, had stumbled onto the “Life as of Late” blog that discussed social media issues they were struggling with as parents. They shared her posts with their pastor Sean Miller of Potomac Presbyterian Church, and together decided to contact Brooks to invite her to lecture to the parents in their congregation and also open her talk to the Potomac community and surrounding areas. They have reached out to Churchill, Wootton and Whitman High School parents as well as the middle school parents in the area.
“We want people from our church as well as the community to come to the presentation,” said Mamalian. “Sarah Brooks is amazing. She doesn’t say that social media is bad, but that it is here to stay. Parents need to understand it and get their kids to think about it — and to make good choices.”
Susan Pereles is also a member of the congregation of the Potomac Presbyterian Church. She has three children — two in high school and one in college. “It’s a hard line to draw,” she said. “Some kids are active participants but others are just observers. Many are glued to their phones and computers for information and feedback about how their peers judge them. Sarah Brooks will be meeting with our youth later on Saturday — I’d like to be able to listen in while they talk about their feelings about social media.”
“Sarah Brooks is so relevant to what all parents are worrying about,” said Mamalian. “When I read Sarah Brook’s blog, it did not take long to realize how wise, funny, and ‘real’ Sarah is, and how much both adults and youth can learn from her about social media. Sarah has made me think in new and different ways about how I use social media and how I relate with others on social media. And this information is even more valuable to my children.”
“We are very excited to host such an engaging and thoughtful speaker in Sarah Brooks and hope to welcome many parents from throughout our community,” said Miller. “We all want to know the best ways to engage social media with our children as we raise our kids in a digital age. Potomac Presbyterian wants to connect with families in our community in new ways, and we think this is a great opportunity to do so”
For more information, contact the church at 301-299-6100.