I am sure that I am not alone in worrying about the effect that the internet is having on our lives and our families. I certainly wouldn’t want to be growing up in the midst of social media and all the pressure that brings. At least when we got home from school that was it – you got to escape but now Snapchat, Instagram and FaceBook mean we are all accessible 24/7. So what can we do to make it easier?
Speaking to friends, we have all said that our teenagers are much nicer to be around when they don’t have their phones. Confiscating the phone for whatever misdemeanour seems to result in a happier, more sociable and pleasant teenager. They are not hiding away in their rooms and actually engage in conversation voluntarily (often incessantly). The dilemma though is that the worst thing ever as a teenager is to miss out on what everyone else does. I can still remember how I felt not having stayed up as late as friends so I had never watched the TV programs that they had. In reality I doubt I would have been watching them even if I had been up later but it seemed very unfair at the time and was all my parents fault as I stood feeling awkward! So taking away access to social media leaves them isolated and mad with you – neither of which are positives.
I know that I am guilty of never having my phone far away from my hand. I respond virtually instantly to texts and emails most of which are work related. What I haven’t really thought about though is the lessons that I am teaching my girls. I have talked about this at length with my eldest daughter who is totally sold on how distracting mobile phones can be. We have a ‘no phones on the table’ rule and if you are talking you focus on the conversation not what the latest alert is telling you. It is true though. If you can see your phone, it has some degree of your attention. There has been lots of media discussion around our growing inability to communicate and engage in person. There is so much non verbal communication that takes place on a face to face basis that is lost in Snapchat and Instagram. I am not convinced that the world of pouting and filters is one of progress. Like it or not though, it is the reality for our children and one that they are desperate to be part of.
So I think that I may have to be that parent that starts to limit access to phones and the internet further. There needs to be a balance and that goes for me too. I have an office and that needs to be where I go to check and respond to emails rather than scrolling through whilst cooking dinner and ‘listening’ distractedly to my children. We don’t have phones at the dinner table and always sit down together to eat and talk about how our day has been. It needs to go further than that though.
Maybe we are more responsible than we think. Whilst they do need downtime they also need something else to fill their time. My youngest has been out on the farm helping with the lambs morning and night for weeks now and has hardly been near her phone other than to take photos to put in her ‘Farming Journal.’ My eldest always had her nose in a book but to be fair she was much older before social media really took hold. The middle one would happily sit for hours glued to her phone and it is only when it is taken away that the paint and art equipment comes out. She loves it and is really good – maybe more of that would be a good thing..
What I want you to do today is to go and think about how mobile phones and social media feature in your home. If you are always short of time then I am pretty certain that the time you spend checking your phone, emails an social media could be reclaimed. You may be surprised to see how much time we are talking about here that could be put to better use. Maybe there is time to squeeze in some exercise after all and perhaps it would be a great opportunity to involve your teenager too. Time to lace up those trainers and head out the door – walk or run – and engage one to one. Oh and make sure you leave those phones at home!!!!
I would love to hear your comments and for you to share any strategies that have worked for you. Please like and share too if you found this useful and interesting. If you would like to read more on this and the use of technology generally then you might find these books of interest. ‘Reclaiming Conversation’ by Sherry Turkle or ‘Absence’ by Michael Harris.