As a parent, you are the most influential role model for your children. (Desiree Panlilio)
As parents, we stand as the most influential role models in our teens’ lives. Every word we utter, every action we take, they watch, absorb, and mirror. This influence extends beyond shaping their immediate behavior; it lays the foundation for how they interact with the world, including the ever-expansive universe of technology and social media. The concept of “do as I say, not as I do” rarely holds water, especially in the digital age. A pivotal step parents can take to minimize the risk of technology is to embark on a journey of introspection and self-regulation. By curbing our own digital consumption, we paint a vivid picture of what healthy computer, smartphone, and social media usage entails. It’s not merely about preaching moderation; it’s about living it. After all, we should role model the behavior we want to see in our teens.
Our smartphone’s presence often beckons us to check messages, emails, or indulge in the endless scroll through social media feeds. This behavior, whether driven by genuine interest or sheer habit, tells our teen that this is a healthy way to behave, that this constant desire to be connected is okay. Our role as parents requires us to create and follow the rules and regulations we vocalize to our teen, it demands setting the example we wish to impart.
The path to a balanced digital life begins with creating pockets of technology-free time and zones. Family dinners, mornings, or moments of togetherness should remain sacred, devoid of screens. These instances are not just opportunities to recharge but chances to establish real, meaningful connections. Do you ever feel that someone is giving you their full attention if they are scrolling through social media, or answering a text? No, it is letting the person know that the phone and whatever is on it, is more important than they are. What you can do as a parent is change the narrative. Imagine starting the day a little earlier than your teens, dedicating those moments to checking your email. As your family prepares for the day, your focus shifts to them, engaging in conversations that extend beyond the digital realm. The ride to and from school, seemingly mundane, holds immense value. Replace phone conversations with genuine interactions, embracing discussions about their day, their thoughts, their aspirations. It’s in these unassuming moments that relationships are fortified. I believe technology is a remarkable tool but should never overshadow the power of genuine human connection. Trust and relationships are built in the smallest of moments. When teens sense that their concerns, thoughts, and feelings are valued and heard, they’re less likely to seek connection from the internet. We all know that the internet presents our teens with an array of advice, both good and bad. However, none of that advice is tailored to the individuality of your teen and may do more harm than good. By creating a relationship where your teen can turn to you, you equip them with a filter that can separate out the inappropriate, irrelevant, or potentially harmful advice that may come their way.
The social media world is dominated by filters, likes, and comparison. We all can relate to how long it took for our teen to create the perfect instagram photo and post. It is important that our teen does not slide into thinking the social media world is the real world. It’s crucial to help our teens cultivate self-esteem anchored in their abilities and intrinsic worth, rather than the fleeting world of social media validation. As a parent, how do you do this? It is important to encourage your teen to explore and participate in activities outside of social media, be it sports, arts, volunteering, or any endeavor that sparks enthusiasm. It is through these activities that your teen will develop life skills, celebrate victories and defeats and grow personally. By having your teen involved in activities they gain a sense of self-worth that is not shaped by social media and based on their looks or likes by strangers.These activities involve face-to-face interactions, and conversations beyond emojis and likes, enabling teens to experience the richness of genuine human connections. These connections are the foundation to foster friendships that stand the test of time.
The ever-evolving digital world is one which we, as parents, must paint a picture of balance, connection, and self-worth. It is important for our teens to be in control of their screen time. We need to teach our teens that real-world connections take precedence over virtual interactions. I know many video games where teens meet up with their friends to go on a quest or fight a battle. That should not be their entire friend group. Our teens also need in-person human interaction. As we guide them, let’s remember that the journey is not about preaching, but demonstrating. It’s about setting an example that amplifies our words, empowers our teens, and resonates far beyond the confines of screens and gadgets.