September 15, 2011

Facebook parenting = 21st century coffee klatch

Whenever we went back to my grandma and grandpa's house for holidays, the family gathered together in the living room and we told stories.  Or rather, as the babe in the room I listened to stories, while my aunts and uncles and my mom told about the adventures and misadventures they found themselves in growing up.
Many times, their stories ended like this:  "We thought we would get away with it, but by the time we got home, mom had already heard the news from her coffee klatch."
Stay-at-home moms gathered together for coffee and swapped stories about parenting, shared news, offered encouragement, and yes, told their own stories.  They shared when there was a problem.  And all of your friends' moms knew your business.  They were out there looking out for you.  Your mom did have eyes in the back of her head, and they belonged to Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Fields and Mrs. Rodgers down the street.
My parent's generation grew up and when they became parents, both of them typically worked.  My own family lived out in the country and there wasn't a neighborhood so to speak of for us to run around in.  Not that my mom would have time to be a part of a klatch anyways.  The closest they got was the parents that hung out together on the sidelines of soccer games and t-ball games and football games.  They became their own little community, but their interaction wasn't on a daily basis and as children, we didn't worry so much.
I am not a parent... and watching what kids in the world today deal with I'm not sure I want to be... but as I have watched over my youth and interacted with their parents, I have been intrigued by a new form of community parenting.  Facebook.
As our preteens and teenagers explore the world and interact with eachother, facebook has become an intergenerational site. Moms and dads and grandparents are all online now in ever increasing frequency.  And as our kids post about the dumb things they have done, they now get lectures from all sides.  Even if they are not friends with their parents online, they are with other adults who look out for them and try to push them in positive directions. 
I watched with great interest the other day as one youth recounted how he had crashed his moped.  His mom posted something about being more careful and instantly she was backed up by three or four other parents who also were concerned and had their own advice to offer. 
For parents who are at work during the day, but have access to the site through their cell phones or computers, Facebook is a way of keeping in touch with their kids wherever  they may be.  They daily talk with other parents.  They stay up to date on what is happening all around them. 
Social media sometimes is blamed for increasing depersonalization, but in this little small town, it just might be the coffee klatch of the 21st century.

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