Originally posted on Medium

One of the amazing things that has emerged with the rise of social media is the ability for people to express themselves creatively. Whether their passion is singing, art, crafts, science, they can find other people who are passionate about the same things and learn from them, and share their passion with the world.

When we think about helping our children form healthy, positive relationships with technology and social media a lot of it is about balance. Balancing how much time they spend on social media, but also, how can they take those online experiences and create real-world action? Can they take what they learn online and put it to practical use? Can they do something in real-life and then share it online? Then learn to get better at it, continually progressing.

Find the passion

As parents we’re often very focussed on sifting through skills that our children are good at. We want them to take up hobbies and skills that they enjoy and that they can potentially excel in. While we may be looking for things that can take them forward in life as a potential career, it’s also incredibly important as part of developing their self-confidence and self-respect throughout their teenage years.

For some children, finding their passion can be difficult. They want to be good at the things their friends are good at, or they don’t enjoy what everyone else is doing. The internet and social media allows children to connect with a wider world. Allows them to see hundreds of other skills and passions. While staying away from the black hole that is YouTube autoplay, it can be a great way to explore what other people are passionate about.

If they find something they are passionate about, it can be very reassuring for them to see other people who enjoy the same thing. Seeing someone doing it professionally, can give them something to aspire to.

The new fridge art

I remember our family fridge, covered in magnets, the grocery list, and my brothers’ and my artwork from school or doing crafts with my best friend. It was an ever-rotating gallery, though it slowly shrank as none of us really had a passion for art and grew out of it, focusing on other endeavors.

If your child is old enough to be on social media platforms these can become the fridge (or if they’re under 13, check out the Mazu platform). A place to showcase their passion and to share it with friends and family. And the great thing about the online fridge is that it isn’t limited to artistic endeavors. They can use these platforms to share their love of bugs, to talk about bird migrations, or the subtle differences in Aquaman’s outfits over the years.

Building self-confidence

Remember how proud you were when you showed someone something you created or learned how to do? It made you want to do it again and again. The roots of my career in writing could probably be pointed back to grade one where I proudly made the longest bookworm in the class — one body part for each book I read that year. I received no other reward than seeing my long bookworm displayed on the classroom wall.

One thing that is incredibly important to help your child with as they navigate these social spaces is teaching them that the likes and view counts don’t determine how good something is. Instead help them to find and develop a community of close supporters whom they value, and who value them as creators and as people. That community may start out simply as close friends and family, but then grow to people with the same interest. Help them find other creators that they can comment on their posts. Help them understand that a close knit community of passionate people is more valuable.

Children who are naturally shy may feel more confident about performing in front of a camera as opposed to a live audience. This allows them to share their passion, without feeling the anxiety of being in front of people. And perhaps, as their confidence grows, teaches them that it’s not as scary to get up in front of others to share your presentation on the life cycle of grasshoppers.

YouTube can often seem like there’s a disconnect between viewer and creator, but people still want to engage with each other. This has created the demand for YouTube meetups, so viewers and creators can interact with one another. People who never thought they would be public speakers are hosting these events because they’ve found something they’re passionate about and want to share it with their viewers.

Get involved

Children will not instinctively know how to operate a video camera, upload it to the computer, edit it, and post it online. This can be an excellent learning opportunity for both you and your children to learn how to use some new tools. And to talk about what parts of the video they want edited out and why.
It’s also important for parents to help be moderators on the accounts. Facebook and YouTube do not automatically filter out negative comments. However, there are settings in YouTube that can help with this. This can help you select negative words to block, and prevent other users from commenting with URL’s that are potentially inappropriate. Facebook also has an option for blocking comments with profanity or a custom list of words, so get familiar with the profile settings.

Creating these filters with your children can also be a great learning opportunity for them. What kind of conversations do they want to encourage in their community? What do they consider inappropriate? Are they ready to handle the negative comments?

Instead of saying no, we can find ways for children to learn how to engage with technology in positive, healthy ways. Especially if they are receiving a device for the first time, it’s important to create that balance from the beginning. The team at Mazu believes in helping children develop into positive digital citizens, and in creating an environment that nurtures them and their passions.

Why not join us?

Download Mazu to share your picture or story: Android | iOS

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