Self-expression: Moving off of the internet and onto a real-life journal

Last night after I finished speaking with a group of parents, a mom came up and began talking with me about issues related to Myspace.  She had a great idea I wanted to share with you.  One of my greatest concerns with the way kids use technology like IM & Myspace is that they self-disclose way too much.  Because the computer gives them a feeling of intimacy and control, it is very easy for them to share very deep parts of themselves–often with people who just don’t care or who may turn around and misuse that trust.  It is becoming difficult for kids to work through the “stuff” that comes along with growing up.  Too often that process is done in a very public forum.  I’m not sure kids really think through who might actually see it or read it.  Often, when kids share their heart with someone else online, it seems to be more about just getting it out than to actually communicate something with another person.  Unfortunately, there are lots of ways they can get hurt when they so easily share themselves online.

That’s where this great idea comes in.  If you find you have a very thoughtful young person who is most likely sharing deep parts of themself online, challenge him or her to write those thoughts down in a diary instead.  You know the kind of diary I’m talking about–the real-life kind that you can touch and feel and maintain control over. With this kind of diary they can still work through things, but maintain more control and healthier boundaries.  Then, if they really want some feedback from their friend, ask them to wait a day or two, then share some of the main thoughts.  By then they may have worked through some of the very personal parts and can be a little more objective about what is good to share.

Growing up in this wireless world is tricky–especially when it comes to processing confusing thoughts and emotions.  Maybe one way we can keep our kids healthy and wise is to remind them of some of the old-fashioned, real-life things that seemed to work pretty well for us.

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