I was chatting with friends recently and an interesting question came up: How is social media benefitting our children? Clearly, with such rampant worldwide use of social media by our kids and most adults, there must be some benefit to it. However, I really had to think about this one. I seem to have no problem coming up with reason why social media is bad for our kids, but I find myself struggling to think of positives. Surely there must be positives aspects.
I think we can all agree that social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. Staying in contact is especially important when living in UAE as a huge majority of us are expats and rely on social media to stay connected to our families and friends back home. In addition, using Facebook groups is a great way to buy and sell stuff as well as keep in touch with community issues and events.
That being said, I’m pretty sure the kids aren’t consumed by social media due to how easy it is to sell a used couch – these are total “mom” reasons to be on social media. In order to understand social media better, we have to try to see it through our kids’ eyes.Why do they need it? What are they getting out of it? We need to take a different approach.
When I think back to when I was a teenager, long before the internet was even an idea, I felt so insecure. I hated the way I looked. I felt that everyone in my school was better than me. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like to have social media back then. All the typical teenage induced negative feelings I had about myself would have been instantly confirmed through my smartphone. I could look at my phone and see posts and pictures of all the parties I wasn’t invited to and l the fun I was missing out on. In real time!
I would likely have taken hundreds of pictures of myself and spent hours editing them so I could post the one “good” picture and wait for the “likes” and heart emoticons to come rolling in, cancelling some of the negative feelings I was having. I really can’t see how social media would have been a benefit to me as a teenager but this is, unfortunately, exactly what our kids are facing now.
As a parent, it is heartbreaking to see a child feeling bad about themselves. I am in total panic mode right now, I want to take away all of my daughter’s devices and ban social media. If I can isolate her from all the negativity, she’ll be fine. Right? If only it was that easy.
I read an interesting article recently by author Zina Harrington, in which she says, “We have to stop pretending that we can unplug our children. Technology is an integral part of our kids’ world, and it will continue to be throughout their lives. We need to change the conversation. Instead of restricting screen time we need to teach our children balance in a world where technology is abundant. We must shift focus and introduce them to the concept of mindful usage.”
But how can we do this, you ask?Well, I will share a few of the ideas I attempt to implement into our home. These may or may not work for you but give them a try anyway:
Communicate.We need to talk to our kids and really listen when they talk to us.Put your phone down when they’re telling you about their day. I can be guilty of this. I really need to make an effort to be in the now and not try to multitask at every given moment.
Be a Role Model. We need to become conscious of the time we spend on our devices, especially when our kids are in the same room with us. We need to be conscious of what we say on social media as well, our kids are watching how we handle our ourselves and learning from us whether you know it or not. Also, if you are at your child’s sporting event, put your phone away- let’s show them we are engaged.
Go Outside. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, try and go for a “phone free” walk or bike ride. Just disconnect from devices if only for a short time. Slowly try and increase your “phone free” time till you can actually go hours or days without it.
It’s out there. Remind your kids that the instant they hit the send button on a post it’s out there forever! It takes a split second to hit send but the consequences could be long term. Be very careful.
Love. Show them every day that they are loved. Show them that even though the world can be harsh and critical at times that they have a safe and loving, non-judgmental home to come to. There is a lot of pressure on our kids these days and they need a safe place to decompress.
Forgive. We are all human. Maybe you’ve tried to set restrictions on devices in the past but it didn’t turn into a long term habit. It’s okay, keep trying new ideas and ways to curb electronics use. Remember, failure is just the first attempt at learning. Don’t quit!
There are many ways to go forward and it will be up to you to decide what works for your family but always remember it is for the long term good of our children and our families. Its virtually impossible to stop the out of control social media train but luckily we get to control how it affects our home and family.
FOSS Wellbeing Champion (& Parent of a Teenager!)