A recent study (a joint effort by Nielson, Ericsson, Common Sense Media and McAfee) has shown that teenagers are plugged into handheld gadgets like never before. The way teens communicate with each other has drastically changed.
For example, only 4% of teenagers 13-17 indicated that using the phone to talk was the preferred method of communicating with friends. In fact 63% said they don’t even use the phone to call at all. Compare that to a whopping 68% of teenagers that text every single day. 51% are checking into social media websites every day as well.
Since texting and social media have become the main ways to communicate among teenagers, this has presented some problems. One issue is that teenagers are often more focused on the text chats they have on the go than on other more important things such as homework or projects. It also creates a distraction from prolonged concentration.
Another issue is basic courtesy to those around. It’s very common to see people texting while someone is talking to them. The basic concepts of what is considered rude are changing. And finally with smartphones being so portable, teens are not getting breaks and often these gadgets are taking over the teens’ lives.
Find a Balance
Finding a balance is a tough thing. Here are some thoughts from me as a mom and some things I have learned from my teenagers…
1. Do research. If your teen does not yet have a cell phone or other wi-fi enabled gadget, take the opportunity beforehand to decide what boundaries or rules will be implemented for usage. Take the time to talk to other parents and find out what possible issues may arise.
2. Define boundaries and expectations. Once you decide what boundaries you want to implement, make sure your expectations are clear. If necessary, write up a contract that can be signed by parents and teens and what the consequences would be if the contract is broken.
3. Lead by example. We can’t expect our kids to know when to limit themselves if we are always running to our phones or posting on Facebook all day long.
4. Know their passwords. If your teen has his/her phone locked, make sure you know the password. The same goes for Facebook and other social media sites. Explain that you want to respect their privacy, but that you will check periodically or on any occasion that you feel there is reason to warrant a search into his/her activities. This should not be about whether or not you trust your child. If you don’t trust your teen, best not to give them a phone or internet access at all until that trust is earned. This is simply being a responsible parent and knowing what is going on in your child’s life.
5. Join in the fun! While texting or posting on social media is no replacement for actual one on one communication, I have found it to be a great way to keep in touch with my teen throughout the day. While the teens would not enjoy it if we kept calling them on the phone while they were out with their friends, they are much more receptive to us checking in on them via text. And it’s a lot of fun to send little messages to each other throughout the day just to check in. Take the time to learn the short form words and all the smileys too.