The Apple app store alone has over 1.2 million apps. This number holds true for the Android market as well. Apps include games, utilities, tools, reference, catalogs, health, food, music, photography, weather, travel, news and most importantly social media. Most famous of these social applications include facebook, twitter, tumblr, snapchat, vine, and many others. Before I present to you my suggestions on how to treat these social platforms with your child/teenager in perspective, I would like to indulge you in some basic parameters for you and your family. Not only will you find these tips useful for yourself, but it will also enable you to weigh the pros and cons of these applications your teenagers use and set healthy parameters. In this post, I want to reintroduce you to the essence of social life. Do you really communicate with your child? Is there anything in the Sunnah or the Quran about social communication?
Before the advent of technology, people communicated with one another through speaking. If they weren’t around, you sent them a letter. People learned how to read people’s emotions, facial expressions and most importantly, learned how to deal with all kinds of people. With so many different social media platforms, nowadays, so many adults and teens have stopped communicating. They don’t know how to behave in person. For myself, I did not have a cell phone until I was in college. The old Nokia phone models were not only insanely durable, customizable, but more importantly, it served its purpose – to place phone calls and send text messages. The only game available then was Snake. No one complained about the monochrome screen. The ringtones were true to their given names.
Fast forward to 2014. Phones are our masters. Adults and teenagers are glued to their phones. A whole family might sit in the living room not talking. Each person is with their phone. I disagree with this kind of lifestyle. I think that parents and teenagers should learn to be balanced in how they use their phones. I love technology. But if technology is hindering valuable opportunities for your child and yourself to connect and learn how to socialize in person, then technology must take a back seat. I see no need for children to have phones. I define children as any child within the ages of 6-13. What is in their life that requires them to have the latest Samsung Galaxy? I am against equipping children with phones at this age. The social platforms on there are not needed for them. Why do they need facebook? Why do they need Twitter? This age group is critically in need of learning how to communicate with parents, friends and the world. It’s easy to type a message. But do your kids know to ask someone politely for help? Do they know how to understand verbal hints? You can’t expect them to learn these things if they are glued behind a screen all day long. This isn’t just with phones. But it’s also with the internet and tv. I think too many parents let technology babysit their kids. Kids and teens find joy and comfort in technology and find no need to express their feelings and concerns. They don’t know how to talk to you. You don’t know how to talk to them. What do they do when they are frustrated? They tweet their problems. They ask their friends on facebook for help. They snapchat silly selfies to find self confidence. This isn’t the healthy way.
The Quran and Sunnah are replete with examples of dealing with people face to face. Take for example the story of Moses and Pharaoh. Moses (pbuh) had a speech impediment. He was afraid that he would be at a disadvantage. Yet, this did not grant him the license to abandon his mission. He had to learn to communicate with Pharaoh, his foster father. At Moses’ disposal was his trusty adviser Prophet Aaron. But at Pharaoh’s disposal was the mass media of his time. He was able to assemble festivals for grand shows and exhibitions. At a drop of a hat, Pharaoh organized tricksters and magicians as propaganda in front of a huge audience to humiliate Moses and Aaron. Yet, the Quran teaches us that with all the odds stacked against him, Moses was strong. He was ordered to speak kindly to this tyrant, “And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear,” 20:44. Forget about having your kid speak publicly. Do you have that connection with your child to talk to them? Are they terrified to tell you anything because of your previous reactions? Do you think maybe you are a bit neurotic? Do you think maybe they feel more connected to their friends? Don’t blame technology. Blame the lack of parameters. Get back in touch with your teens. Treasure the relationship you can build with your children at this young age. Stop telling them to listen to you all the time. Do you listen to what they think? Are you always waving the banner of “respect your elders” in their faces?
From the Sunnah we find that the Prophet (pbuh) instructed people to socialize. He went out and spoke to the Quraysh. He didn’t dispatch letters to them. He engaged them. That’s hard work. It’s easy to sit alone, use a computer, and not talk to anyone. It’s easy to insult people behind a screen. It’s easy to bully via social media. But imagine if people actually spoke and interacted with people in person? Not only would your child learn social skills, but also deal with unruly people as well. The Prophet tells us in an authentic narration, “[that] the believer who interacts/intermingles with people and is patient with them is better than the believer who doesn’t interact/intermingle with the people and is not patient with them.” This hadith teaches us the value of personal communication. It teaches us how to deal with those whom we disagree with – through patience.
In this post we examined the evolution of phone technology. We also examined how young kids up to the age of 13 are not in need of a phone and its social platforms. They are more in need of learning how to talk and communicate at this age. Finally, we examined how the dawah of Moses and Muhammad (pbut) was intrinsically linked to social interaction. I believe that parents must not forget the essence of social media – communication. But before you give them that phone or ipod, invest in their young lives before they actually need a phone. Teach them how to communicate at a young age before they fall into social ineptitude when they are older. Learning to communicate one on one will build valuable bonds between you and your teen.