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How can we (and indeed should we) encourage children to nurture real-life relationships over online connections?

Young people, as we know, face a difficult time during the transition from child to adult. They face an identity crisis as, for the first time, they experience an increased sense of self-awareness and this can often lead to insecurity and low self-esteem.

The internet provides a space in which they can build relationships, ask questions and generally be heard, whilst remaining semi-anonymous and therefore protected from criticism or judgement. They can re-design themselves in any way they want, be this through the editing of their profiles or, simply, their choice of words.

My concern is that there might be danger in children taking these opportunities to redefine themselves online, instead of growing into themselves as human beings and beginning to learn that it's OK not to be perfect, that life and relationships are indeed messy, but that this is exactly what makes them so rich and valuable.

How can we (and indeed should we) encourage children to nurture real-life relationships over online connections and consequently their own, real-life identities?

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    Nov 11 2013: we have this assumption here that online connections are not real. in what sense they are not real?
    • Nov 11 2013: They are very much real but exist in another kind of reality.
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        Nov 11 2013: in what sense other kind?
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        Nov 11 2013: well, except most of the nonverbal parts, every sense.
        • Nov 11 2013: I would dispute the claim that the verbal aspects of communicating on and off-line are similar.

          Conversations in real-life happen in real time whereas conversations on-line allow each participant extra time to edit their response, omitting the natural pauses and stumbles of verbal exchanges.

          In addition, neither is visible. Instead, acronyms and emoticons are relied upon as the main expression of emotion. As 90% of communication (in real-life) is NON-verbal, is it not important for children to develop the skill of reading and deciphering these codes?
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        Nov 11 2013: these delays are actually making the conversation more thoughtful. that is a good thing.

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