Given the very quick rise of digital connection and the use of technology, many of us parents find ourselves with an interesting challenge. We are now parenting adolescents who are way more tech savvy than we are (useful at times, yes!). Also downright scary given that the long term effects of extended technology use won’t be apparent for a number of generations and we (the-technologically-not-as-savvy) are the ones who are guiding our adolescents through this challenge.
- Social media and texting are affecting our adolescents’ anxiety levels and well-being. Survey results from 14 – 24 year olds in the UK confirm that “Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all led to increasing feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness.” For more information on social anxiety and teens, click here.
- The time spent on devices is taking away time to spend on the basic necessities of keeping ourselves well and happy – things like eating whole foods, getting adequate amounts of good quality sleep, exercising and being out in the sunlight.
- Our adolescents are learning about life through their screens, not in real time. That means their communication skills are being developed in another dimension, one that does not allow for real life, face to face interaction. Devices are making all their interactions one step removed. Which means they’re missing out on learning about and practicing all the important unspoken skills of communication. These are incredibly important life skills which they will need to navigate their lives successfully.
- There is no ‘off’ button. Left to their own choices, some adolescents could quite easily stay at home, living their lives through a screen. If your adolescent is already slightly anxious, the temptation to do this is high. While this may be a short term answer, it is NOT a long term solution. And if anything, it will just make the gap bigger and therefore harder to cross.
What You Can Do
It is my hope that as you read this you begin to think about the impact of social media on our society. There is no denying that some aspects of technology and social media are amazing, and have been of great benefit to all of us. How does this apply to you though, with your adolescents? What day to day steps can you take to encourage your adolescent to have a healthy tech/life balance?
- Be a role model yourself. Don’t spend breakfast time on your phone checking your emails. If they’re that important to check, get up earlier. The same applies to arriving home. The time when you reconnect with your family after spending the day apart is important. Checking your emails can wait until you’ve unpacked your day and your adolescent’s day.
- Have technology free zones and times – in our house dinner time is tech free. Devices are not allowed at the table, or even in the dining room. It’s our chance to talk, to tell jokes, to recount our highlights, to trade insults and to air our rants. And to do this without any interruptions from devices.
- Talk to your adolescents about your concerns over their social media use. If you yourself are not sure how much to be worried, click here to discuss it with me first.
- Encourage the use of blue light, airplane mode, notifications off and removing some apps from their phones (they can still access them via their laptops). You can consider the usefulness of a technology contract to support you.
- Be vigilant for signs of anxiety and the use of technology as an avoidant, short term solution. Again, if you’re not sure click here to book a call with me.
In some ways it feels like an impossible scenario. If you have older adolescents you may be aware that this technology was a novelty when your children were born, it definitely wasn’t something that you would have considered to be a parenting problem. As Bob Dylan sings, “The times, they are a-changin.”
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