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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 12 2013: Turn off the computer. Mandatory time off from the computer and doing other things, like talking to real live people.
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      Nov 14 2013: I don't find it particularly apt to root out the problem in this way. I believe it is crucial to find out first why a child prefers online interactions over the real ones - is it because of their low self-esteem, position in the group, complexes, very introvertic nature and other. These are the real reasons of running away from the real world - on the Internet everybody can make themselves look better, be more interesting, bold, and sociable.

      In some extreme cases, I would advocate barring from the computer, but the computer itself is only a tool to cherish relationships in the way that is convenient because of some other reasons.
      • Nov 14 2013: I can get behind this line of thinking and support it. I see exactly what you are describing in student use of computers. They hide behind the screen, post in social media just to get a reaction, say that they are 21 when they are really 14, and so on. I would question whether being an introvert plays into the equation though, but not a major point of contention by any means.

        What I see, at a school with 1 to 1 computer to student ratio is a host of students who bury themselves in the electronic world to the point it harms their health and academic work. Students playing video games at 3 am rather than school work and not sleeping at night but sleeping in class. Even sitting side by side in the open spaces not talking because they are online doing other things rather than interacting.

        I do advocate for mandatory time off from computer use if for no other reason that for students to take a break from the computer and stretch their legs. I think a better way of setting it up is giving a time limit on the computer for studies and social media/games. But having a time limit or a time when the computer must be off.
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          Nov 14 2013: In this sense I would be an ardent admirer of this idea, even though I do value (or at least I used to value when I was a teenager) boundless freedom. Everything "mandatory" seems scary, futile and annoying by definition.

          I can speak from my own experience that online gaming (even at 3 a.m.) was a wonderful thing, not only because of the game itself, but thanks to semi-social interaction and possibility to learn foreign languages. At times it did interfere with my regular duties, but I knew these were the sacrifices I consciously made. My parents also strongly opposed my online activity back then, but I blamed it for their lack of understanding and a general generation gap.

          Right now, having finished all schools including graduation, I know it was in a way limiting, but I don't have the feeling that I wasted my time - that my life was partly ruined and I could have done so much when all I did was clicking virtual pixels. I am adamant that our virtual life cannot take over our real life, but I am fine with the idea that these two might overlap and - sometimes - one may feel like immersing in the abyss of the network.

          I think we agree here: too much pudding will choke a dog.
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      Nov 14 2013: says the guy on the internet

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