My son explained that he liked chatting to his internet friends (in Norway! in Hawaii! in Cheshire!) because it’s socialising “with no strings attached”.
He’s internet savvy. He’s cynical about what people say about themselves. He’s had internet safety drilled into him since his then best friend hacked his Moshi Monsters account back in primary school. I don’t think he’s going to get into risky situations, and I check in with him about what he’s doing, just to make sure. It’s a world he has to get to know, and I try and make sure he has the tools he needs to do that safely.
However, I think there is a subtler risk. I can understand the appeal of “no strings” socialising, but the fact is the strings are the important bit of a relationship. It’s the strings that bring someone round with lemon drizzle cake and sympathy when you’re poorly. It’s the strings that had my neighbour do a load of washing for me every week during my chemotherapy. It’s the strings that make you send the card when your friend’s mum loses their own father.
The strings are the bit that tie us all together. They are tangled, and sometimes inconvenient, and sometimes painful, but they are also the bit that makes it all worthwhile.
He’s had that drilled into him, too. Important duty of motherhood, passing on acquired wisdom, and waiting for them to fit it into their own world.