What’s the difference between an online persona and an offline one?
The answer should be nothing. Our online presence should be an extension of who we are as a person, not a carefully curated version of it.
But after one scroll through social media, you’ll find perfect vacation photos that hide our jet lag, fancy food spreads instead of instant noodles, and pool-side pics that mirror our favourite influencers.
Social media once seemed to be an easy way to connect with friends and family, yet recently, it’s a hub for the most carefully curated version of ourselves.
For Gen Alpha Online and Offline Worlds are Intertwined
In fact, a recent study found that one-third of millennial respondents exaggerate their posts on social media. For many, our offline lives look very different from our online profiles – and that’s doing us more harm than good.
But while we’re actively trying to break old habits and build more authenticity into our lives, Gen Alpha has the opportunity to embrace authenticity from the start.
On average, Gen Alpha kids are spending 66 percent of their time with friends in person and 34 percent of their time with friends online. This means their online and offline personas are developing simultaneously, and the line between the two is blurring.
If we strive to keep it real, it is up to us to teach our children what truly authentic even means. Rather than being a copycat and looking up to those who have found their authenticity and thus following their authentic footsteps, we should point out that being authentic really means being representative of who you are. And that applies to what you are saying and doing in the offline and online realm.
How to Approach Personal Identity and Authenticity of Your Child in the Online World
Most importantly, sit down with your child and explain to them that their personal style, manner of talking and the way they see the world, is what makes up their personal brand. And although brand and reputation might not be the first things on our children’s minds when they join social media, it should be our job to explain to them the importance of a personal brand and how it can shape us.
Fueling this authenticity is simple, yet needs to be a consistent message. As Gen Alpha joins social media, parents can help kids build these habits:
- Share what you love: Our hobbies, passions and interests are a huge part of our personalities. Encourage Gen Alpha to share posts about what brings them joy, rather than the latest fad.
- Share the ups and downs: It’s our mistakes, our off days, and our imperfections that help us learn and grow. Find profiles that talk about the good and bad days, and share them with your kids. Explain how these posts can help others feel supported and included, and encourage Gen Alpha to embrace a similar honesty.
- Understand what’s real: At an early age, Gen Alpha will need to be able to understand when a social profile has been carefully curated to portray a certain image. Look through several profiles together and discuss which ones talk about both good and bad days, about successes and failures, and about their interests and passions.
When talking to your child about the way they perceive themselves, a good rule of thumb would be to teach them to ask themselves how would they feel about their posts in a year time. And what about 10 years down the road? Would they still feel that those posts represented their true selves, or would there be a slight unease? Would they be ok with that post being seen by just anyone?
Self-perception, although tough to perceive by the child at that age, is an important part of the authenticity of their personal brand and who they are. It is crucial you don’t just tell them to be themselves, if they think that being themselves is not enough. Kids at preteen age tend to be more sensitive towards the biological changes that are occurring with their body. This is the age when they are mostly feeling insecure and less confident, hence the underlined need to fit in. Encourage them to explore who they are, what hobbies interest them, and what it is they’d like to achieve in the years to come.
Keep in mind that we are slowly moving to an all-digital world, at least when it comes to work. There used to be an anecdote saying that the biggest trouble the new generations will have, would be acquiring the email address with their name and surname, as by the time they grow up and begin using email, all possible options would be taken. So, it might not be a bad idea to reserve a domain name for your child so they can slowly build their profile on the chosen domain when the time comes.
If you notice that your child is especially taken by the online world, has a passion and wants to express it to the world, it might be a good idea to introduce them to a concept of a personal website. This could be their creative outlet, a place where they can build their personal brand underneath their own name, and have a full control over the content, something that our profiles on social media platforms lack. A personal website could also be a fun project you and your child could do together. A place where the two of you could be fearless to show your skills, hobbies, failures and achievements you made together. Think about it as your online diary, adventure and treasure hunts, documenting progress on building a treehouse or go-cart, a chance for the two of you to bond together.
The most important thing to remember is that while it is best to be true to yourself and stay authentic in the offline and online world, we aren’t obliged to follow all the rules, but rather make those moulds fit us. Since that is what true authenticity means anyhow.
Millennials had to learn about online authenticity and the dangers of coveting a “flawless” social media life by trial and error. But with the insights they learned along the way, these parents can help raise a generation that closes the divide between online and offline personas and values real above perfect.
.ME wanted to know more about how this generation uses technology, so we commissioned an independent study of more than 500 parents of Generation Alpha kids to look at how technology is affecting Gen Alpha relationships, academics, and social challenges. The study was conducted by an independent research agency in August 2019 and included a nationwide sample of 532 randomly selected parents of children 13-years-old and younger. If you want to get more technical, the margin of error was +/-4.25% at the 95% confidence level. Ethnicity and age breakouts are directional only.
This article is part of our series on Generation Alpha
We seek to provide answers to your most pressing questions about keeping your kids safe online, introducing them to the digital world, and helping them be their authentic selves online.
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