The hidden impact of teens and tech
Technology is a constant in the lives of our teens. They begin their day checking their
social media accounts, have their phones with them all day and typically end their day texting with friends. Parents are worried about all this tech time, and they have good reason. Today I’m sharing with your some of the things we’re seeing in our teens and young adults. Some are less obvious than others, but they are all impacts that teachers, professionals in business and even our own teens are noticing.
Changes in communication skills
Teachers, HR representatives, and others who work with teens and young adults have all shared their concerns about the effects of technology on the development of interpersonal communication skills. What are we seeing that we didn't see before?
Conversations are now in sound bites delivered through texts or tweets. Young adults are lacking conversational skills required in a professional environment.
An inability to read someone’s body language or hear their tone of voice through texting. This allows for misinterpretation because we can't hear the "intention" of the message. What could be meant as a joke or sarcasm may be interpreted as a snarky remark or insult.
A lace of eye-to-eye communication. This is not something that comes naturally to young adults because they grew up texting with friends, meaning they’re looking at a screen instead of a person when communicating.
Shorter attention spans. Kids have grown used to multitasking, shorter interactions with others (tweets and such) and having their attention spread between multiple sources of information input. How often are your teens texting, tweeting and in a group chat with friends all at the same time? It’s no wonder their ability to concentrate on ONE thing at a time is suffering, they are training their brain for split second turn around of information.
As a society, we have lost the art of "filtering" our thoughts because we don't see the other person's emotional reaction to what we text. Things that we normally wouldn't say to someone's face become really easy to say online.
Changes in how self-esteem is formed
In previous generations, our self-esteem was influenced by those in our immediate surroundings. Our friends and family members were there to build us up or influence us to make good decisions. They were there to celebrate our victories and comfort us through our hard days. Things are so different with everyone being connected globally now. You have perfect strangers, who may live on the other side of the world, saying things to you that can build you up or shatter your confidence.
Teens are defining their self-worth by the number of likes, retweets and shares they get to each post on their social media.
They compare their lives, successes and failures by the comments they receive on their posts.
Teens (and adults) see everyone else’s “perfect lives” on FB, Pinterest and Instagram and feel their life is unfulfilling or mundane in comparison. We all know, realistically, that the other person’s life isn’t always “Pinterest Perfect” yet the comparisons continue.
Most importantly, kids have a hard time escaping the negative. When I was in school and being bullied, I knew home would be my safe place to escape it all. This is not the case for today’s kids. Cyberbullying is constant, there is no “escape” because bullies have access to our kids through social media and texting 24/7. It has been the cause of multiple teen suicides in our area recently. Even when parents monitor their teen’s devices, they may miss some posts or tweets (or their child hides things).
So what can parents do? I won’t sugar coat this, even parents who are involved in their teen’s lives and check their social media have a hard time staying on top of things. Tweets and snapchats fly back and forth between kids so quickly and things escalate at incredible rates. Here’s a few things we can do proactively:
Limit screen time. I know, it’s hard to do, but it’s worth it for your child’s well being.
Start kids off with a limited amount of screen time when they first get their devices. Let them earn bonus time through responsible behaviors (getting homework done without being nagged, completing chores when asked) and through using their initial social media accounts responsibly.
Set a hard stop on all technology each night for everyone (yes, that includes parents!). Having a set time when everyone turns in their tech to a family charging station then allows more family time as you settle into the evening or bedtime routine.
Have the passwords/codes to all cell phones/tablets and all their social media accounts. Remind your kids that it is your job to guide them and help them make good decisions. Just because someone is old enough to get a driver’s license it doesn’t mean they’ll automatically make safe choices, the same goes for social media!
Set a good example with your own behavior. Set phones aside during meals, put them on silent during conversations with your kids, don’t be a distracted driver (our kids learn more from our actions than our words!).
Be vigilant about setting family time without technology. Our kids are only with us for a short time, do we want them to remember us giving them half of our attention? Have tech free weekends every few months and/or “tech free” times each day for even an hour or two, it will make a difference.
STEPFAMILIES: as much as you can, have consistent rules and consequences regarding technology in both homes. If this isn't an option, your best option is to set family rules in your own home which match the vision and values you have for your family.
Would you like all this laid out in a contract? I have 2 for you! Click here to find my family cell phone contract and my social media family contract.
One last idea, and it’s a true challenge, but one that makes a difference. Do a family tech detox challenge! I have seen multiple interviews and asked teens I know about tech detox weeks and they all say the first few days were hard! Eventually, they realized they were less stressed, slept better, interacted with their friends more and felt more positive about themselves. Those points right there make it worth the effort! So, are you having issues with screen time or another parenting dilemma? I’m here to help! Let’s set up a time to chat! I invite you to book a FREE 20-minute Discovery Call with me. You can do that at www.daretoparent.com. (This is a no-sales pitch chat, I promise!)