Nowadays it seems like teenagers are born with an extra appendage attached to their fingertips. You know what I mean. That iPhone they just can’t seem to look up from may as well be a part of their bodies! Spending too much time using social media may be detrimental to your child’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Parents need to be aware of their child’s social media habits, especially if it’s a big part of their life. Asking these five simple questions about your teen’s social media use will help you determine whether they have a healthy balance between virtual friendships and face-to-face interactions.
1. Is your teen vain?
Proverbs tells us that pride leads to disgrace but with humility comes wisdom. Because of the ability teens now have to speak to hundreds or thousands of people at a time, vanity has become one of the biggest side effects of social media. Take a look at your teen’s Instagram account. How many selfies do you see? What are the captions? Check out their Twitter and Facebook accounts. How often do the status messages or tweets reveal vanity or a self-centered mindset? Pictures, tweets, and status updates can give unique insight into what is going on inside your teen’s head and heart. Discuss with your teen what they think pride is and what the real world consequences are. Share with them what humility means and the value of living a life that isn’t focused on self.
2. Is your teen a gossip?
Oftentimes social media provides an environment for people to say things they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Hiding behind a keyboard gives people a false impression that their words don’t have consequences. The screen makes our words seems as if they aren’t a part of “real life.” Unfortunately, we have seen in recent years that rumors and unkind words online have caused terrible damage with some teens. Teens are self-harming or even taking their own lives because of what is said to them and about them on social media. If your teen’s online life seems like a reality TV show full of drama and quarreling, don’t just brush it off as a nonissue. Gossip can destroy relationships and lives.
3. Is your teen over-sharing?
Social media is great for the ability to keep in contact with old friends and also to get to know someone you have just met. People will often base their perceptions of your teen on what they post online. That could mean another teen, a parent, or a potential employer are summing up who your child is based off their online profiles. Honesty is great, but over-sharing is not.
We don’t necessarily want to encourage teens to simply post only the highlight moments of their lives which present a skewed image. But it is also not a good idea to take private family matters public, vent about relationship problems, share pictures that may be embarrassing, or post passive-aggressive status messages like I can’t believe the nerve of some people, you know who you are. Teens need to understand that what they post online now could follow them for the rest of their lives.
4. Is your teen incessantly checking their phone?
This is a biggie and not just for teens. Even I can sometimes be too attached to my phone though it’s usually because I’m trying to keep connected with my kids! While it’s good to be reachable and polite to respond promptly to messages, you should be concerned if your teen is constantly checking their phone. There should be times and places where cell phones are not allowed. It is not necessary to be in unbroken connection with online followers. Your teens won’t die if they aren’t able to see their friends’ latest mirror selfies, latte art, duck faces, transformation Tuesdays, or outfits of the day. Put the phone aside for family dinner. “BAE” can wait.
5. Is your teen anti-social?
One of the potential issues with social media is that communication via texting and instant messenger may cause problems with keeping up a conversation face to face. Teens use various forms of text and online messaging to have shallow conversations with multiple people at the same time. That can make it really difficult to focus on a single substantial conversation. Ironically, it’s possible to be in constant contact with hundreds of “friends” and still feel alone. Loneliness can cause your teen to seek out increased yet still insignificant online attention. Unfortunately, while intending to help people connect, social media can also have the opposite effect and make relationships less fulfilling. More “friends” does not necessarily mean close friends.
It looks like social media is here to stay, and our teens are a part of the most tech-savvy generation in history. Unfortunately, social media can exacerbate character flaws and must be approached carefully and wisely. If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be necessary to intervene in your child’s online social life. (While you are at it–check out their entertainment choices too!) Help your teen maintain healthy relationships…both online and in person.
Does social media seem to be consuming your teen’s life? How does your family maintain a healthy balance?