We are a media saturated world.
Many researchers agree that in 2012 smartphone use went from optional to mandatory (reported by National Public Radio and others) meaning this was the year that really shifted us from using smartphones largely for convenience, novelty and entertainment to needing smartphones for everyday functions or to obtain necessary information.
I’m always looking for information, opinions, ideas, and research on the modern day habits of social media use, and how our use supports or hinders children and adolescents.
I’m concerned about what I’m reading: technology developers in Silicon Valley are limiting their own children’s use of devices because of their negative effect? And what I’m seeing: the erosion of attention spans, the increased irritability when our WiFi is down, the significant anxiety people feel with their use of social media. And what I’m feeling: confused, about what adolescent social skills are anymore; sad, when I glance at almost any two people sharing a public place and see there are invariably two phones in between them, and anxious- are the rising rates of depression, and depression related suicidal thoughts and plans connected to more than 60 million people identifying with experiencing loneliness much like other chronic diseases, like diabetes or heart disease?
Me and my personal and professional tribe want to know: How much time is too much time for teens on a phone? Is phone time different/worse/better than a laptop? What’s worse- social media, any website content, or how the blue screen affects and impacts brain functioning? Or brain development?
Adolescents are highly sensitive to verbal and visual emotional content, primarily due to dynamic and ongoing changes and growth in the areas of the brain responsible for social understanding and communication.While there is a lack of conclusive evidence linking social media use and depression, keep this in mind:
Social media sites specifically, and internet use generally, is based on forming and keeping connections with others and information. It maintains this use by promoting users to click through content. Each click is rewarded with a connection or information. Capitalizing on the reward centers of the human brain by making visual and verbal emotional content readily and endlessly available is highly desirable for everyone. Add a developing brain that is still processing HOW to create and sustain social connections, and is highly emotionally reactive to changes or the perception of rejection of social connections creates vulnerability for teens to anxiety, panic attacks, low self worth and impoverished social skills.
I want to reduce my teen’s vulnerability, and help them have healthy relationships. When it comes to social media and screen time, where should I talk about putting on the brakes? And what is positive or healthy use of devices?
- Maintain an ongoing discussion about screen time QUANTITY. My husband and my kid’s dad, Stuart, is the King of the Ongoing Discussion about Screen Time Quantity. He takes no prisoners, or guff, when it comes to bringing this up. Even though this conversation elicits the eye-roll-to-beat-all-eyerolls – parents, work towards reducing the multi-tasking of screen use and homework time, and work to have a limit on screen time per day.
- Identify face-to-face social connections your teen likes or would be willing to try. An art class, a hike with others, going to the movies with family or friends, parties, class group projects, camp, group therapy, etc., all include face-to-face social interactions.
- Focus LESS on screen time quality. Face it, we all have immense and total access to privacy when it comes to which sites we spend time on and can easily choose without restrictions or input. Focus MORE on adding in diverse social skill development.
- Enjoy positive outcomes your teen may have online that they want to share with you! After all, the internet has transformed our ability to reach, support, educate, inform, inspire, create, and connect. This is good news.
Easy? No way. But doable. If you would like to know more about staying close and connected with your teen, and how to set and keep mutually agreed upon boundaries in your family, set up a free twenty minute consultation with me today. I’m so glad you’re here, and I’m parenting right alongside you!