Tuesday, February 27 2024

Have you ever heard about a “media diet”? If the news hasn’t yet reached
you, it’s time to turn to an expert nutritionist in the field: Father Paolo
Padrini.

In his book,

Facebook internet ed i digital media. Una guida per genitori ed
educatori, (Facebook, Internet, and The Digital Media:

A Guide for Parents and Educators;
Ed. San Paolo, 2012), he offers his personal recipe for parents
and teachers.

Simple advice is directed to those who, out of the fear that the unknown
world of social networks may engulf the youth in an abyss of alienation,
prefer to outright ban these networks. In taking this approach, these
people renounce a platform of real dialogue that the author describes as a fertile educational terrain.

Padrini’s intuition, undoubtedly derived from years of experience with
adolescents and young students, comes from having understood that Facebook and the social networks in general are an integral- and
therefore essential- part of the new generation’s ‘socialization
experience’. In other words, the formative capacity of an educator is
realized and bears fruit only in the context of an open and constructive
dialogue with his/her subject. However, this much-vaunted dialogue must
contextualize itself in the various places where young people express their
own capacity to build up relationships, and therefore, also in the context
of the media.

Given the present-day impossibility to exclude social networks as a place
of exchange for the daily life of our children, such as school, church, and
the gymnasium, we need to welcome these networks into our family, and
better yet, into our living room. Just as children can bring their friends
over for dinner, they ought to “virtually” bring them over as well in
sharing these online relationships with their parents, discussing with them
the content and images of the communication that takes place on the web.

This could become the proper context in which to develop an educational
message that does not serve merely to condemn choices or behaviors, but
clarifies the messages and ultimately, the core values that led to these
the choices. The aim is that young people better understand the social
reality in which they move. The distance that the adult eye tends to
measure between the every-day reality and the virtual environment has, by
now, finally shortened. The relationship between authority, freedom, and
responsibility- essential to any activity of an educator-must now find
grounds on the media front, which has thus far been feared.

There are no clear-cut, indisputable vetoes or prohibitions deprived of
formative value. There is rather dialogue, grounded in reciprocal trust
that is able to lead to agreements about the how these tools ought to be
used, timetables, amount of time set aside for chatting, the computer’s
placement in the house, etc. Only in this way will children know that “the
internet is a space of freedom in which their choices are at stake; a very
important space in which to live responsibly.”

Ultimately, Padrini reminds us that the role of the educator, and in
particular of parents, is to help clarify the objective: to communicate
information and oneself with sincerity, in an effort to bring to light the
authentic message that the child wants to express through Facebook
, which naturally is only one of the possible channels available.

If the objective is therefore well defined, Facebook and the like
may be welcomed. In real time, they allow our genuine friends to share not
only in the emotions of the moment, but also and above all in the
existential, edifying and profitable experiences, and perhaps even in our
vocational and prayer experiences.

In conclusion, Padrini ironically and brilliantly likens Facebook
to pasta: it’s appetizing and good for you, but “it would not benefit our
body if it were the sole basis of our nourishment.” For a healthy
nourishment, you need a balanced diet: one that contains the balanced use
of various media and a necessary integration with every-day real social
experiences that can then be enhanced in order to properly develop the
capacity to cultivate relationships; a capacity that I believe to be
essential not only for young people, but for every human being.

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