We are sitting around the dining room table on Christmas, giving thanks for all that we have to be grateful for this year–family, friends… and apparently technology. I look over to find 3 young teens who care more about taking pictures of the food on the table to post on social media than actually consuming the food or giving thanks for the food and family around them. Connecting with teens can seem impossible but I’m here to help.
Technology and Teens
It never fails. Whether it’s tweeting on the way to school, scrolling through Facebook during family car rides, or Snapchating at the dinner table, it seems that in today’s tech-based world, family time has taken a permanent backseat. Teens are more interested in what’s happening on their devices than what’s going on around them, including in their own home.
In a world where technology is around just about every corner and in just about every person’s hands, how can parents and adults compete and accomplish connecting with teens?
Well, the first step to competing is realizing that there is no competition. Technology has already won and has been winning among teens for the last decade. There is not a place that you can go in this country where at least 90% of the teenage population isn’t toting around the newest tech accessories from Apple, Samsung, or Microsoft.
One mistake that I believe parents often make today when it comes to technology is seeing technology as the enemy, rather, than as an adversary. Many parents would rather harshly restrict the use of their child’s technology than take a step back and figure out the appeal of this technology to the newer generations.
Instead of telling your children that all cell phones and social media are bad and unsafe, ask yourself why they feel so drawn to these platforms. There are clear attractions there that you aren’t seeing, so take the time with your child to recognize them.
Also, recognize what role you might play in your child’s heavy cell phone and technology use. Be able to decipher between a teen just being a teen, and real problems that might be persisting in your children’s lives. While teens often use social media and technology for a fun and relaxing adult-free sanctuary, many children also use technology as a way to escape harsh realities that might exist off screen. Be able to spot the difference.
Taking the time to sit down and become familiar with your children’s technology is not only a way to reconnect with your children, but also a way to connect with the world around you. Don’t limit yourself to simply asking your children about their technology… incorporate it into your daily life.
I heard from a father of two college-aged daughters who felt that his daughters no longer wanted to talk to him, but seemed to always be in constant communication with their mother. I then found out that the difference between the line of communication between the girls and their mother compared to the girls and their father was that the father relied solely on phone calls to communicate. The mother, on the other hand, had taken to texting as her primary mode of communication with the girls.
Just think, something as simple as texting can make the biggest difference in your relationship with your kids.
Finally, don’t forget to look up from your screen sometimes and take in a breath of fresh air. View technology as an ally, and face-to-face time with your children as a friend. Establish a regular time for your family in which everyone disconnects from their devices, and reconnects as a family. Use this time to catch up with your children, and find out what’s going on in their lives, but don’t limit the conversation to “how is school?” type questions, this almost always elicits the automated response “fine”. Ask them about current events, their short and long-term goals, and even their political views, and actually listen and engage in what they have to say.