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(Anti) Social

March 4, 2016

Is it just me or does it seem that the world around us is falling apart? From terrorist attacks/threats and train wreck presidential debates to the price of oil being in the potty and the Kardashians popularity not fading…it looks on the surface that we are all doomed.

Throw in raising kids during these crazy days and it’s enough to make me want to walk around chanting, “Jesus come back NOW!” at the top of my lungs (am I the only one looking forward to getting a new body in heaven?) But then I would probably get arrested for such a public outburst, and that wouldn’t be good for me or anyone in my family.

I’ve spent a decent amount of time around high school kids the past couple of months. I’ve done a lot of listening. And, I’ve done a lot of observing. Teens today can have it tough. While they are growing up in a day and age that is way more advanced, I think it’s way more complicated.

I’m sure you agree that they are never far from their phones. I imagine there’s a permanent imprint in the palm of their hands where the phones stay. Social media (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.) might enrich their lives on one level, but on another level it can make it messy it if not managed responsibly.

Parenting teens in the choppy current of technology today is a tough assignment. When I was growing up, one of the biggest concerns for my parents was how I could safely cross the busy street on my bike (I was known for being a klutz) to get to the neighborhood where a lot of my friends lived. No cell phones, no internet and, praise the Lord, no social media.

The proverbial “simple days”…where a teenage girl’s main challenge was to see if the house telephone cord could reach all the way into the closet.

The thought of having social media available when I was in college makes my skin crawl. I don’t think my 80’s sized hair would have fit into half of the photos anyway. Let alone my hubcap sized earrings. I’m sure my college friends who are reading this right now are nodding their head vehemently in agreement just thinking of my obnoxious earrings that I actually stored in a tackle box. Yep, a tackle box.

I don’t think teenagers (or tweens, for that matter) realize they are obsessed with their phones. It’s all they have ever known, so what looks like an obsession to the parents is normal to the kids.

Since the social media/technology component isn’t going anywhere, I’ve decided that it’s best to manage it in the lives of my children as wisely as possible, instead of just leaving them on their own with it.

When I was young, my parents wouldn’t let me stare at the TV screen all day, even though I could have easily done so (even though we only had 3 channels!) Why? Because they knew what was better for me than I did. Even though I didn’t like their rules for TV time, they didn’t (care!) budge on putting that boundary in place.

Our kids don’t know what’s best for them like they think they do. Likewise with adults, I guess – we don’t know what’s best for us like God does.

Only since I have had one go off to college do I fully grasp the importance of instilling a healthy self monitoring system during the high school years. Once they fly the coop, it’s too late.

After all, there is no real research on the long term effects of excessive social media use because it hasn’t been around long enough. Maybe it’s just me, but I am convinced there will be a ton more narcissists in the world in 5-10 years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen girls making the duck face as they are taking Snapchat selfies to send to their friends. Or how long it takes them to pick the perfect photo of themselves to post on Instagram.  I was at the dentist office one time and a girl was sitting by her mom taking at least 20 photos of herself while her mom was lost in Time magazine…

While high school kids look like young adults on the outside, they are still just kids on the inside. On an extreme unchecked level, kids have the ability to live one life in front of their parents and one life in the virtual world.

I challenged a group of teens recently to take a one day per week fast (break) from their phone. ONE DAY. All social media. Off for one day. You should have seen the incredulous look on their faces when I made this suggestion. It’s like I said, “You must go home and bury your puppy alive.”

“But, I’ll break my Snapchat streak!”

“There’s no way! I have to check Instagram everyday!”

And the excuses kept coming. While I couldn’t make them actually abide by the challenge (even though I offered some coffee cake to sweeten the deal, I had no way to actually prove they took the one day fast) I could ensure that my own children did…at least my two girls that are still in high school. College boy is on his own.

I tell them that my prayer for them (among many) is for them to live in freedom and to not be enslaved by anything. Isn’t that what we want for ourselves as adults as well?

I’ve had some tell me that when they go off to summer camp and can’t have their phones at all (they have to write letters to their parents…gasp!) they describe the feeling in one word: freedom. But they only experienced that freedom after they were required to walk away from their phones. It wasn’t their choice. Camp rules. But freedom followed.

I’ve heard of a study that showed when a teen doesn’t have his or her phone for an entire 24 hour period, their anxiety spikes the first day. Similar to withdrawal, I would imagine. The same study shows that the anxiety drops and calm follows after that initial day of having no phone. Hmmm.

Maybe experiencing the simple life can still happen for our teenagers. Even if it is just in spurts.

And I bet it won’t involve taking a long phone cord into the closet.

 

**I’ve added French Breakfast Puffs to the Breakfast tab and a Spring floral centerpiece under Centerpieces in a Snap

 

 

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  • Jill Bechtold March 9, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    You are so right, Ju Ju! You show great wisdom on this topic and I am truly thankful that my nieces are under your care!
    Let me encourage you – even if they are not thanking you now, they will later 🙂

  • Suzy K March 4, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    I do agree with you and I think I am becoming hooked myself.