Let’s face it- how to parent a teenager on social media is a challenge! The average teenager now spends a vast amount of time attached to some device whether it is a tablet, smartphone or computer. Read this post to find out some smart ways to overcome some of the most common social media issues.
What is going on in the teenager’s brain?
A parent has to try to find out how the teenager mind is working while they are sharing all this stuff. Lots of connections obviously but this means that only certain areas of teens’ brains are going to be developed while others will be cut off or remain immature. Let us remember that our brains go on developing till we are about 25 years of age.
We are aware that true social communication will help us to become aware of persons’ gestures, the tone of voice and also other signals which are hard to capture on a tweet or on Snapchat.
The good news is…
Australian researchers did some very valuable research on about 100,000 adolescents who were messaging each other over an extended period of time. The good news is that they found that about 80% were actually benefiting from all this. It was making them much more sociable in the true sense of the word. The typical teenager in that group was actually following up the tweets and texts by getting to meet friends in the outside world, rather than in the virtual jungle.
And the bad news?
For the remaining 20% who were suffering from general anxiety or some other social phobia, they have difficulty with coping with media communication. That is one of the issues for any parent.
As regards the 80% majority, Dr. Dan Siegel (director of the Mindsight Institute and author of the bestseller ‘Brainstorm’) points out that when we underuse one part of our brains, then that remains underdeveloped. There will be a shortage of connections in certain areas and this will affect how the teenager will be able to interact socially. They may be less savvy as to realistic interaction in the world out there. This will have a profound impact on how our teens will be able to perform in the workplace and in maintaining relationships.
The Internet is superb at connecting everybody but that is as far as it goes. We share and share ad nauseum. These are empty connections. Somebody remarked that it is like ‘being alone together’. There is no engagement. A parent should ask the question: ‘How can we really know a person through tweets and photos?’
5 Smart ways on how to parent a teenager
1. The parent should get up to speed on all the different social sites and be involved. That is the best way of knowing just what is going on and where your teen is hanging out. A little knowledge here goes a very long way.
2. Talk about tweeting, texting, and sharing. Point out that when people want to share, this is perfectly OK. But also point to the downside in that they need to do this in order to feel important or that their existence has some meaning.
3. Ask them how they feel about being able to be nasty, mean, offensive and downright rude on the media and how different it is in the outside world!
4. Discuss how our brains need exercise in all its areas. We need to develop our emotions and feelings just as much as our intelligence and knowledge. This includes being able to understand how people react and engage in the social world:-
• they understand gestures
• they are keenly aware of body language
• they develop a sixth sense about intonation and tone of voice
5. If the parent gets to know their teen as a real person, then they are well on the way to helping them to become more socially conscious, better balanced and also more mature. Point out how sad it is to see people together at restaurants or at home at dinner who are not communicating at all because everybody is attached to a screen device!
How about you?
What tactics have YOU used as a parent with to make your teen more aware of the importance of REAL interaction and the other online issues?