How To Combat Your Teen’s Obsession With Social Media
Social media has changed human communications drastically. Specially, It has become second nature to teens. Early morning, before getting out of bed they check their phones. They even go to the bathroom with their cell phones, right? That’s the reality. I am sure you are tired of telling your son to put down his cell phone while having dinner. Or you are upset about seeing your daughter lurking her friends obsessively on Snapchat instead of doing her homework. Do you wonder if there’s any way to combat your teen’s obsession with social media? Is this going to end someday?
SOCIAL MEDIA IS HERE TO STAY
According to eMarketer, it is estimated that 89% of kids from age 12 to 17 will have a smartphone in the US by 2017. These mobile devices in combination with social media platforms have changed relationships for good. Teenagers are “addicted” or “obsessed” to the connection with their friends through social media and they experience FOMO (fear of missing out) when the cell phone battery dies and have no charger with them.
If you are the parent of a teen, you should know that the most popular social media platforms among teenagers in the US are: Snapchat (the favorite one), Instagram, Musical.ly, Tumblr, YouTube, and Twitter. Most kids avoid posting on Facebook since many parents have a Facebook account and they want to have some degrees of separation with mom and dad. Of course, they don’t want their parents to find a video of them on a wild party or pulling a prank on someone!
I know this situation can be scary for a parent. Specially, because we are the first generation of parents facing this revolution so we have no experience. Parents have to figure out how to approach this topic with their kids and realize that technology is constantly evolving and impacting our lives. We, as parents, have to come to terms with the fact that technology and social media is here to stay.
WHY TEENS ARE HOOKED ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Statistics say that teens in the US spend 9 hours approximately on social platforms every day – according to Common Sense Media Are you shocked? Sure you are. But let’s go a little deeper to find an explanation. Researchers found that there is an exaggerated activity in the nucleus accumbens - a structure in the limbic system of a teenager. This area of the brain is related to pleasure and the “rewarding activities”. During the teenage years, this area grows to its maximum size and starts to shrink during adulthood. This is the reason why most teens are very passionate, risk takers, love loud music, etc. because according to Professor Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D.: “Nothing will ever feel as good as it did when you were a teenager.”
Teens are looking for identity, belonging, attention and also validation from their peers during this period of their lives. The reward-seeking behavior and validation come with the “likes” they get on social media and how “popular” they become… so, in other words, social media is the perfect place for them to get instant gratification. This instant gratification is very addictive for them and that’s why they get hooked on social media so easily.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA
The gigantic quantity of information we find online is usually not filtered or rated according to age. So, we have to be aware that there would be a wide range of good, bad and ugly information that our teens will be exposed to. Let’s review some of them:
THE GOOD ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA:
Our teens can connect with members of the family or friends that live out of town.
They can express their creativity through memes, pictures, writing stories, etc.
They can stay updated with current events in their communities and in the world.
They can use social media for collaboration with their peers.
They can organize events for the greater good through social platforms.
THE BAD ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA:
Some unreliable information can be spread among teens who post things without checking the source.
Some teens can get more self-centered.
Social media could be a trigger for depression in teens who are prone to it.
School grades can be low on teens that spend too much time on social media.
THE UGLY ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA:
Teens can be mean on social media. Jokes can cross the line and other teens can be affected by them. Bullies can be found online, as well as in the outside world.
Some teens post inappropriate photos on social media. The photos can be deleted from the newsfeed but cannot be deleted completely from the web.
It can be a waste of precious time.
Teens can be a victim of “online predators” who want to steal their personal information or want to meet youngsters for sex encounters or other illegal activities.
PRACTICAL TIPS TO COMBAT YOUR TEEN’S SOCIAL MEDIA OBSESSION
A few rules at home around technology and social media are a good place to start. Remember that children and teens need some structure to thrive in life:
Set some boundaries – For example, they should have a schedule for studying, entertaining including social media, sports, and other activities.
Share a family password – Agree with your spouse and kids at home to have a “family password”. This only password will access most social media platforms so parents can log in to their kids' accounts whenever needed. They can have their own usernames but the password can be shared.
Turn off your phone or computers at home when it’s time to have lunch or dinner with the family.
Turn off notifications specially, during school days.
Try to have your teen involved in a new sport or hobby, like volleyball, dancing or manga for the artsy kid. They need to be involved in activities outside of school to avoid having “too much time on their hands” which usually results in poor decisions.
You, as a parent, could plan some “family time” more often. Going to the beach, or going to a basketball game could be something your teen will be interested in. The best is to plan activities your teen is interested in.
It’s not easy to be a parent of a “digital native” teen. But one of our roles as parents is trying to adapt and get involved in our kid’s world. We can try to get familiar with the digital language – slangs and such – so we can understand what they want to communicate and connect with them. One-on-one conversations with our teen would be very beneficial for both parent and kid if they talk the same language. And, when I say talk “the same language”, I don’t mean that you have to talk like a 15-year-old kid, but it helps to understand his way of talking and his feelings, so your son or daughter feels understood.
When talking to your teen about social media try to remind him, in a loving way, not to post anything that grandma shouldn’t see. That should be your number one rule! Also, remind him about the importance of watching his language and not sharing personal information or his location with any friend they don’t know in person.
None of us is perfect. We learn as we live. Don’t fall in the “do-it-because-I-said-so” approach when talking to your child; instead, talk to him in a friendly way, showing respect, and validating his feelings. You will see how rewarding for both of you these conversations would be.
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To your child's success!
Your Therapy Friend,
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Relationships & Parenting Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationships. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens, an evidenced based program. She is also a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She is a passionately committed therapist, who thoroughly takes pride and joy from her job. She enjoys working with a culturally diverse population and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an active volunteer of the Broward Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.infinitetherapeuticservices.com and follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/infinitetherapy/