I was driving a group of girls around last week and as I sat in the drivers seat all I heard was Instagram this and SnapChat that – click! Later that same day, I was driving a group of boys to soccer practice and the conversations weren’t that different; just a few less camera clicks. Almost every conversation I heard that day in my car had something to do w/ social media apps. I thought to myself, is this what life has come too? Is this how we want our younger generation to be living their lives?
Admittedly, I am guilty myself of similar social app absorption. Recently, while sitting down to watch a movie and enjoy a glass of wine with my husband, I happen to look up and see my husband starring (maybe glaring) 😉 at me asking me to please put down my iPhone. I have caught myself very often scrolling aimlessly to see what has happened since the last time I had checked my Facebook feed (which honestly, was probably only 5 minutes prior). Can we help ourselves?
I decided to sit down with a group of teen girls and discuss their smartphone and social media use. What I learned was this: They love it, they hate it, and even though it causes them tremendous anxiety at times they all answered the same when I asked if they would ever go without social media:
“No! Never! Forget it!”
Social media has become a dominant force in the lives of most tweens and teens around the world. Aided by the convenience and constant access provided by mobile devices, especially smartphones, 92% of teens report going online daily including 24% who say they go online almost constantly. More than half (56%) of teens as defined in this report as those ages 13 to 17 and go online several times a day! (Pew Research)
According to recent Pew Research, adolescents put technology in the same category as air and water. They feel they need it to live their lives. In fact, they would rather give up their small finger than their cell phone. While shocking to me, I asked the girls if they agreed and all said: Yes!
What makes social media addictive?
Being friends in the virtual world requires much less effort and makes it easier to meet friends than the efforts needed to make real-life connections.
Virtual connections make life quick and convenient. Tweens and teens appreciate the instant gratification that comes from a like, a share, or even being friended by an older or popular classmate.
While smartphones are mobile they are making our kids and teens less mobile! Teens we sat down with often felt that they had no desire or need to get out and meet up with friends since they could stay in their room and pick up a device and be instantly connected. Sadly, this is leading to a rise in obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
Being virtual has shown to diminish our empathy for people and distort our value of them. Online bullying and harassment can be easier to commit than other acts of bullying because the bully doesn’t have to confront his or her target in person. It’s also hard to control, and the person being victimized has no idea how many have seen the messages or posts. Tweens and teens can be tormented on a 24/7 basis, making them feel like they need to continually check their smartphones!
What can parents do?
Watching for signs of digital addiction is important for all parents. Some of the signs that your child might have developed a problem are when their grades begin to fall at school or when you notice changes in their personality and normal habits. As always, at any age monitoring and limiting their screen time with their mobile smartphones is a good first step to take. While doing this, make sure that there are other, healthier activities that they can turn to that will replace the time that they are usually spending on their digital devices.
- Solutions can be as simple as telling your teen to turn off all social media notifications-both pop-up and email notifications. (Great advice for us adults too!)
- Sit down with your kids and discuss specific times of the day to check in and see what is happening online. It is always easier to help your tweens and teens maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software. For instance, Netsanity has a suite of services like their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities or spend time finishing homework.
- Encourage your tweens and teens to pick at least one day a week to stay completely off their devices! Join them by promising to do the same! Sometimes this is easier by blocking certain apps that you tween or teen get tempted to visit on their day off. NetSanity also has a cool feature called Appblocker, where certain social media and other apps are profiled and parents can one-click block them, making apps such as Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, and others a one-click solution. They have a free trial so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device.
Overall, balance in life will always help your tweens and teens lead a healthy and happy life along with enjoying the amazing benefit of technology!
Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.