Never before have we had the abundance of technology available to our culture as we do today. Websites and blogs have become an everyday part of our life. FaceBook, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat are now household names. A social phenomena and an integral means of connecting, their use can be a fun way of being with friends. At other times, its use can be dangerous and socially damaging.
It is imperative young people using technology distinguish between real and virtual worlds, and are able to emotionally respond congruently and appropriately in each of these domains. It’s also vital that Internet communication be complementary to social relationships, not replacing their presence or used to avoid human interaction.
As teens and their families navigate the use of technology in their home, I have noticed these websites have become a source of concern and tension among families — as teens desire freedom in these regards and as parents seek to implement limitations inspired by care and protection. Parents, as you and your children have conversation about their use of the Internet, I encourage you to explore www.safeteens.com
for information as you seek to increase safe Internet decisions. I also offer the following suggestions. Never speak with people you haven’t already met in person or who haven’t met a close friend or family member. When communicating with online acquaintances and friends becomes more important than the real people in your world, it’s time to re-evaluate Internet access. Never publicly post personal or private information. If you don't want the entire world to see it and think twice. In addition to personal websites and Internet blogs, the use of cell phones and text messaging has also become a consistent means of communicating among this generation,
young and old alike. When used to enhance relationship and convey important information, it can be an invaluable tool. When its use begins to take over one’s life or its use begins to take the place of genuine human conversation, the impact can be destructive to relationship and to the social development of our youth. This is a vital developmental time for our young people as they navigate relationship — it's crucial technology not infringe the ability to practice social skills of personal relationship.
For those texting: Keep it simple. If you're texting paragraphs, pick up the phone instead. Discuss emotions or decisions about relationships by phone or in person. Avoid text conversations about difficult topics where misunderstandings often take place. Avoid gossip. Messages can be forwarded and consequences are messy.
As a parent, when should you be concerned? The following are indicators of technology hindering an adolescent’s well-being: an excessive need to be near and/or to access technology mediums, irritability when denied access or given restrictions to technology, anxiety or panic when not able to respond immediately to emails, texts, or phone messages, anger directed toward parents when fostering uninterrupted family activities (such as mealtimes or outings), interference in obtaining sufficient sleep or maintaining habits or self-care, declining academic performance, increasing distance or conflict in family relationships with parents or siblings. These are indicators of addiction.
Where technology enhances and nourishes a relationship, it has the potential to be an asset. Where it leads to isolation or disconnection, it has the power to destroy. As a family, discuss together the values and expectations of technology in your lives.
Celebrate together where balance feels present and seek change together where needed.
Shannon West is the owner of Speaking Pink, a therapy practice for teenage girls and twenties women. You can contact Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org.