It’s been a long time since I wrote a parenting blog post. I can’t say why, for certain, I stopped writing them. Part of the reason was that I felt that I really didn’t have that much to contribute to the conversation about parenting. Sure, I can assert my opinion on parenting and pretend I’m an expert, but in my heart, I know I knew no more than the next guy. Trying to find a new angle was pretty hard and mostly I just felt fake. Part of the reason was a growing identity crisis, which I plan to write about further in the future. There are other factors that all parents understand. Energy waxes and wanes.
But I’m back, thrusting myself online again. I was mostly crickets before and will probably will be again, since we’ve passed the point of peak blog. This time I’ve started a vanity project where I call up my friends and ask them about their jobs. I then turn those conversations into what I hope is a decent pro am podcast. My friends have really interesting jobs guys, and I can’t wait to share them with you.
So what can you expect from this new Podcast of Calling? I don’t know. At the moment it’s a catch-all for my various experiments in different media. I’ve rolled over my old blogs to this site. I’m aware that it’s a branding nightmare. Why call it a podcast of calling when I’m throwing parenting blog posts and old, not great, poetry on the site too? Frankly, because it’s easier. If someone comes for the mock serious poetry and stays for a random parenting post, all the better. I’m not a marketing genius, just an unemployed theater designer waiting for the pandemic to recede.
So, when you started reading this (listening to it), you might have started with hopes for a post about parenting. So here you go:
Parenting Post – Online Identities
Our online identities are vastly more important now than they were when I was a kid. Well, duh, you might say. There was no online when I was a kid. I mean the internet beyond a few Universities talking to each other was really sort of started in 1989-90 when scientists at cern linked documents together with clickable links making the “web”. The internet for me started in 1994, when I was a freshman in college. But that early web was a curiosity for nerdy enthusiasts. Webcircles abounded. But it didn’t stay that way for long. By the time I finished college, the internet was becoming a thing. The Thing. Kids in my class were stopping out of college to create internet startups, many you have probably heard of, if only in the background of Ralph Wrecks the Internet. Sorry, Ralph Breaks the Internet. What? The character is called Wreckit Ralph and he Breaks(!?) the Internet. Anyway.
My first job out of college was working for a company supplying the materials for the other companies building out the infrastructure of the internet. The cables and co-location sites that hosted all the servers for Yahoo, and Google and GeoCities and uh Ask Jeeves. One sales lady working at the company made so much on commission that she wrote everyone in the company a check for $500. That company siphoned off a tiny drop compared to the firehose of expansion. It was heady times, until it wasn’t. Hype meet crash…Where was I going with this? Right, a deep thought about parenting in the age of the internet.
Sometimes we don’t really have any precedent in from our own childhood to help us help our children navigate the now. All I know is that I’m really glad that the always on connection that kids have now didn’t exist when I was a kid. When I was bullied in school, that happened at school and didn’t follow me home, maybe to the parking lot, but not home. Incidents that were embarrassing in the hallway of a physical building didn’t migrate online to haunt me the ethereal spaces of the internet. I didn’t have to face an inbox of taunts. What happened at school was often forgotten by the end of the day and didn’t dog us online forever to be dredged up years later and weaponize against us. All I can say is thank goodness. I like having complete control over what portion of my sixteen year old self I expose online. It’s bad poetry. Keep up.
So as I see it, we have two responsibilities to teach our children. The first is how to disconnect. This is a subject of much debate and I certainly don’t have any answers here. In this day of Covid we have embraced the online thing pretty enthusiastically. Do Thing #1 and Thing #2 watch too much TV, undoubtedly. But they also play Minecraft together with their cousins while interacting with them on Zoom or Discord. Technology has connected our living rooms into a single space, and that’s wonderful. The kids are arguing and laughing, and figuring out how to interact exactly like if there were standing next to each other. It’s truly amazing. But at what cost? That bill hasn’t come due yet. Well see when school starts up again. But I suspect it won’t be as dire as some click baity headlines would have us believe. But learning to disconnect is important. I could be better at it. My kids too. It’s something to work on.
The second major responsibility to teach our kids is how to curate their online personas. This is both how to protect themselves from people who would take advantage of them online, but more importantly how to control what the outside world knows about them. My kids are young and so this is mostly theoretical for us at this point. Thing #1 plays minecraft with his cousins, on my account, and doesn’t interact with anyone outside of our bubble. He watches mostly harmless youtube videos of minor minecraft celebs playing dumb pranks on their friends in game. Often it provides a good opportunity to talk about how to better play the friendship game.
But the kids will get older and we will have to help them learn to interact online in a responsible way. They will need to learn the lesson that the internet is forever. And youth is not seen as an excuse. Kids are having college acceptance taken away because of tasteless things they’ve posted online. Major Hollywood directors are removed from movies because of tasteless tweets from a long abandoned persona of the past. I’m not here to take a stance on cancel culture, but to warn my kids that what they do online can have lasting impacts on their lives. So think before you post. Be careful who you trust with important parts of yourself online. (Nudes, Credit Card Numbers) Have an awareness your online persona and curate it carefully. This is why I refer to my kids as Thing #1 and Thing #2. It’s a small layer of protection from the endless SEO machine.
I know that I will be hopelessly out of date, probably sooner than later. I can already feel my irrelevance every time I have to look up a reference on knowyourmeme.com or the urbandictionary.com. (Aside. I think a subscription site for parents that explains all the emerging slang and memeage as a “new-letter” could be a money maker and spare the odd mom sending lol when she means lots of love and not laugh out loud) Maybe the lesson that the internet is forever will be less important in the future as we evolve as a society to better incorporate the online into the offline. I hope. But until we’re sure, don’t give the trolls what they want, unless it’s terrible teen poetry. Then let’m glut.
Imagination Like a shard of the spirit It creates visions of wonders It moves our dreams Makes dull things shiny Stories spun as children Game with movable rules Imagination is a spark Deep inside glowing warm And Makes this life worth living.
This has been a parenting post written and recorded by me, Chad Bonaker as part of my “Heck If I Know What I’m Doing” parenting project for the Podcast of Calling. Clearly all of the opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s.
The Poem is called unironically and unimaginatively: Imagination, and borrowed from my 16 your old self
The Music is in order: Flowing by Borrtex, Upgrading Alone by Kathali, and Ancient Sailing by Ziv Moran. Thank you for let me set my words to your majesty.
If you want to read or listen to more blog posts, podcast, or poems from my younger self, please subscribe to my podcast or visit the website podcastofcalling.com. Thanks for listening, and What’s Your Calling?
4 thoughts on “A Parenting Blog – A Long Break”
The other big piece of internet parenting for me is that the internet lies. That starts as simple as “these YouTube guys think it’s a hilarious prank to blow up something this other YouTube guy built, but in real life it’s not a funny prank; it’s devastating to your friend who put in hours on that house or whatever.” Kids are prone to believe everything they see is real. Especially on the internet, it’s not.
This is very true. We talk a lot about the fiction of those videos. It does provide an opportunity to talk about how to be a good player of the friendship game in a relatively low stakes environment. Anything built in MC can be rebuilt. It might be annoying, and feelings might be hurt, but learning to express that hurt in a constructive way is very important. These are the in-person interactions that I worry are being left out of kids lives during Covid. But being on a communal discord server and seeing the hurt feelings and patching them up are the next best thing.