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A granddad’s advice to other grandparents about social media

We spoke recently with Jack Busch, former Executive Director of the Department of Sports and Recreation in WA, and granddad to 5 girls, about how social media helps his family stay connected.

eebudee: Tell us about your role at the Department of Sports and Recreation?

Jack Busch: The department’s role is really about supporting Western Australians to enjoy sport and recreation at whatever level they choose, or whatever level they are capable of. It means the agency has a community driven approach. They work with community service providers to help them do what they do best, whether it’s state, regional or club sporting bodies, local Government authorities, etc.

My role overall was supporting or I guess leading that organisation for 10 years. One of my passions at the time was kids-in-sport, partly because of family connections and coaching kids. We had a kids-in-sport unit, which was one of the leading kids-in-sport units in the country. I was also part of a 5-person team that developed a national kids-in-sport policy. So that was one of my passion areas over those 10 years, and it hasn’t diminished since then.

eebudee: Tell us about your grandkids!

Jack Busch: The first sad point is that our 2 daughters with grandchildren are based elsewhere. We have one daughter and her family in Queensland and one in Tasmania. Our son who’s here [in Perth] is too busy playing footy and owning hotels and doing other things, so he hasn’t got any family yet.

Our daughter in Queensland has 3 girls, who are 15, 12 and 9. The one in Tasmania has 2 girls [5 and 7 this year], so we have our starting 5 women’s basketball team!

eebudee: What’s it like being a granddad in this highly connected digital age? Do you embrace social media to connect with your family?

Jack Busch: We absolutely do. My wife leads the charge on this and is rarely separated from her various appliances. Particularly because they [the grandkids] are inter-state, it becomes more crucial.

We don’t do as much Skype as we would like, only because it is hard to get all the kids in the same place at the same time. We use Viber1, which has been around a few years now. We’ve found it to be a safe and personal way of communicating. Lots of people go on Viber to communicate, and the beauty is it’s free so lots of people do it to avoid costs.

We have one [Viber account] set up as a family, and one of the older girls chose to name our group, ‘Best Family Ever’. We just use that [Viber] all the time, wherever we are. There’s photos, there’s commentary, no matter where people are, even if they’re traveling, we’re linking in and everything, so that’s really our glue.

eebudee: Do you have any tips for grandparents who may be nervous about using social media or communication programs like Viber?

Jack Busch: For me it’s about missing out on something pretty special. That’s probably the biggest message – get over it and go exploring! There are so many options at the moment, so from a grandparent’s point of view it might be as simple as text messaging.

There is nothing quite the same as having somebody on the screen and having some fun together. I know somebody who reads a book to her grandchild in England at the same time each day. Those sorts of things are special, and I think what it does is give us the opportunity as Grandparents to be creative and use the technology to fit the role.

eebudee: You’re a big supporter of eebudee! Was your passion for connecting families what made you want to get involved with eebudee?

Jack Busch: It’s absolutely front and centre. But another part of it was, both of us have always loved being involved with young people, so that’s why, one of my absolute priorities at the Department of Sport and Recreation was young people in sport.

Not because it was about them becoming athletes of high calibre. We had a vision, which was something like, ‘ encouraging kids coming out of school to have the confidence and skills to enjoy a life full of activity’. So when kids came out of school they knew what they wanted to do and had the confidence.

eebudee: Do you think the idea of play has changed since you were a boy?

Jack Busch: As a broad pattern it’s changed dramatically. I was just reading about something in the Weekend Australian that said we were ‘free range kids’. We’d come home from school, grab a bite, grab the bike then make sure we were home for dinner. No one knew where we were or the stuff we got up to. As long you were home in time for dinner you were alright. It was that sort of lifestyle, more active, a lot less supervision.

Today, things happen, but basically it was a safer environment, there were less cars on the road, and less other scary things happening. It was an adventurous but fun way to grow up.

We’re quite delighted that our kids treat their children, as much as possible, the same way. But as much as our girls give the kids plenty of free range where they can, there are just different barriers and parameters.

They’re also dramatically different with their technology. The 4 year olds know how to muck around on mobile phones and iPads, and do things that continue to surprise me. We laugh and say they’re wired differently – they’re fearless, they’re confident and they just work it all out.

eebudee: Do you think it’s important for kids to learn these new technologies?

It’s so important for kids to stay up to date with new technologies. In 10 years time the current technologies will be obsolete, so I think its more about them learning to live with uncertainty and constant change, and to be able to thrive in that.

For more interviews and insights into safe social media, please visit our blog. If you’d like to leave a comment, or want us to address an issue relating to safe social media for kids, please leave a message on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.