On Teens and Social Media…. What I’ve Learned

MBA

When you read an article about teenagers, phones, and social media… the above picture is probably similar to what has accompanied the articles. This is what we see from an adult perspective.  Kids who have their noses deep in their phones, ignoring each other, even when in a group of the peers.

This is what the media tells us is wrong with society today.  But, I wonder… who are these experts and where did they come up with their findings or opinions?  Are we just adults who don’t understand the technology?  We don’t get it, so it is wrong?  Have any of these people spent time talking to teens about WHY their phones are so important?

Somehow, even people in my generation, have this nostalgic idea of what family was like or should be like.  We envision the days of past, where everyone was gathered around the television or radio.  Doing family together.

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The reality is that even back then, people had their noses buried in things.  The people and their tendencies haven’t changed, just the vessels that have their attention.

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Our faces were buried in newspapers and books, jump further in time and we were listening to the news on portable radios with headphones.  Then we were listening to music and reading magazines.  Kids began to have toys that were kept in the car to entertain them while driving on long trips, this eventually evolved in to DVD players built into our vehicles.

Is it really anything new?

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Even the idea that families were totally engaged at home, is a bit of a stretch.  It was common for dad to sit in his chair and read the paper or take a nap on the couch.  Mother would be sitting in her chair knitting or working on cross stitch, repairing buttons and socks, reading magazines that interested her, etc. Kids would play games with each other, play with the dog, color with crayons, build with blocks, or even were sent out side until the street lights came on.

Many of us live the idea of a nostalgia that really didn’t exist.

If you spend a few minutes talking to a teen you learn quite a bit about WHY social media and their phones are so important to their lives.

  1. They are BORED or UNCOMFORTABLE, it’s the thing they do with free time or in situations where they are uncertain how to engage.
  2. This is how they CONNECT.   Even when they can’t be with their friends, they can bond over the experiences of shared photos and excitement.
  3.  This is PARALLEL to the things we did as a kid.  Texts = Passing Notes, Selfies = Exchanging School Photos.  Apps allow them to doodle, write or read stories, or be just as silly as we were when we used 8008 on our calculators to spell out the word BOOB.

You will also learn some other interesting things like…

They grow out of it.   My teen was big into her phone in middle and early years of high school.  Now?  She barely uses it, can leave it behind in her room and not think twice about it.  Why?

She has a boyfriend.  Her school work is harder.  She has a job.  She has money to spend = places to go.   She just doesn’t have time for the nonsense.

We spoke about this last night and my daughter said that she hasn’t used Twitter in well over a year.  She only texts about 3 people (outside of her parents).  She only uses instagram for her hobby (she collects disney pins, and there is a LOT of that happening on instagram).  She only goes on facebook to keep in touch with 2 friends who are long distance, and our long distance family members.

I asked her if this was just a change for her, or if it was common among the kids in her grade, and she emphatically said it was most of the upperclassmen.

So, that posed a few questions.

Q:  When kids are at the table, nose in the phone, what’s the deal?

A:  They are bored.  You are talking about things we either shouldn’t be listening to, or we don’t know anything about.  It’s not interesting or we just don’t know how to participate in the conversation.  So, we read.

Q:  Then how do parents get their kids to engage in the conversation?

A:  Parents need to engage their kids, don’t just demand they put the phone down and talk.  Instead parents need to talk about the things that their kids are interested in.  Talk with them, not at them.

Q:  What about all of these apps and things that kids are using?

A:  Totally be aware of what your kids are doing, keep up on it.  And be apart of that life, text your kids, sit down and share videos and pictures with each other.  Try to understand the appeal for yourself.

Q:  Kids are spending a LOT of time on their phones, parents don’t like this.  What do we do about it?

A:  Most of it is boredom, so don’t freak out about it.  Instead do stuff with them, giving them something to do other than the phone… and that doesn’t mean “clean your room”.    Go places that interest them, encourage hobbies that are off the phone, give them money to go hang out with their friends, be willing to drive them, etc. 

My daughter really believes that as our kids begin to have a more active life, the phones will minimize.  However, that doesn’t mean we let our kids forget how to be present.  We can’t expect it, but we model it and teach it.  When my kids see that when I am with them that I ignore phone calls, texts and notifications… they are learning presence.  When they see me give their father that same attention, they learn how to be present with their future spouse too.

We just can’t forget that social media also allows our kids to have presence in the lives in their friends as they celebrate exciting things with them, or console them when they are down.    Just like anything, social media is just a tool.  We must shape the heart of the user.

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: More than just THE TALK, by Jonathan McKee

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “More Than Just The Talk” by Jonathan McKee.  While Family Christian sent me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own.

thetalkFor a Christian book, More Than Just the Talk, is pretty raw.  It was not what I was expecting, at all.  At the same time, it was exactly what I needed. I am a mother of three daughters, one of which is sixteen… and has a boyfriend.  A great kid.  Who despite how much we love him, still wonders when we will “trust him” and “trust them” to be alone together.

I say, when they are married.  My husband, he claims never. HA.

This book is so entirely relevant not just to my sixteen year old… but to my twelve year old… and to my eight year old.  All of which are exposed to the sexually charged media of the world we live in.

It’s time to be real, parents, the influence the world has our kids … even from those who sit in our church pews … is a struggle we not only need to fight against, but a fight that has to start sooner.  We can not afford to give up.  This is a real battle, that will not be easy to win.  Some of us won’t.  Thank God for grace.

Recently I was in a discussion regarding 1 Corinthians 7.  In this letter, Paul basically says it is best to be unmarried (to remain fully focused on God and His calling), if you can’t avoid temptation to get married, and if you get married to stay committed to that person for ever.  Pretty straight forward, but we have to understand WHY Paul wrote this letter.  The Church at Corinth, was in the midst of a city full of sexual sin.  The Church at Corinth, was itself spiritually immature.  This is exactly the situation we find ourselves in, in the United States.  We are country, much like Corinth, that is a hub of various cultures and religious beliefs.  With many different views as to what is and isn’t moral, pure, and good.   We are influenced by those around us, because the further we draw away from the New Testament days, the less mature we are as a body of believers.  We no longer have that same fervor that the early Christians… those taught by Christ and his immediate disciples had.  That fervor gets watered down each generation.

Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth, could easily be a letter written to every church in the United States.  This is what our youth today face. They face music, television and movies that are sexually charged.  We have phones with apps that can allow us to secretly view materials and participate in conversations, and many parents are blissfully unaware.

And, as author Johnathan McKee points out in the book, we are not alone.  This temptation and these materials are making their way in to the hands, minds and hearts of Mennonite and Amish communities.  It’s flooding in from everywhere, and even the “good kids” are getting exposure to it when they are at a friend’s home.  Even when that friend is another Christian.

Many parents are familiar with giving “The Talk” about sex.    It might be very technical about how the body works, coupled with scripture and religious views.  Some may delve in a bit deeper talking about the consequences (physical and emotional).  Some parents may be stricter teaching abstinence only, where as others will support abstaining coupled with information should the child choose not to.  It is a subject talked about at church, school and also home.  Usually, but not always.  In fact there is still some uncomfortably in talking with our own kids, about such a big topic.

If you are hoping this book is going to make you more comfortable talking to your kids, let me forewarn you…. it won’t.  In fact you are probably going to find yourself a little comfortable reading it, let alone thinking about talking to your kids about it.  However, with that uncomfortably … you will also find yourself feeling a sense of urgency to act.  You are going to realize that you need to do more than just talk about it, but actually take some steps.

Investigate what your kids are reading, what music they are listening to, and watch television shows they are watching.  Understand the way teens are looking at sex, and justifying what is and isn’t ok.  Be honest with yourself about not only what they are being exposed to at school… but what is seeping into the home (what channels are you subscribing to, that show late night content that is pornographic).   Take a moment to really understand that those lyrics you think you kids don’t understand the context, they know more than you think.

When your 8 year old asks you, “Mommy… what is 50 Shades of Grey about?”  …. when you don’t own the books, didn’t watch the movie, and don’t talk about in your home.  That tells you, this stuff is everywhere.  They are seeing it & learning about it, somewhere.  Someone is talking to them.  The radio?  Their teachers?  Their fellow students?

There is a lot of influence and we need to be prepared and proactive with our children.  More Then Just the Talk is not a comfortable read, but a necessary one.   Whether you are a public schooling mom, or a Pastor’s wife…. your kids are exposed, they are in need of real … straight forward … and sometimes explicit truth.

First, More Than Just the Talk, exposes that the content of “the talk” has changed.  We are also given tools on how to talk about it with our kids, with chapters specific to sons and daughters.  Each have their own approach, own needs.  However, I wouldn’t advise skipping one of those chapters.  Even if you only have daughters, you need to read the chapter on sons.  Your daughters will one day have boyfriends, and the sons chapter gives you some perspective, and you may… at some point… find yourself having a conversation with him.  This chapter will be beneficial.  The book also helps us navigate through the tough and uncomfortable questions they will surprise us with.  Because, right now, statistics show us that Google is where they are getting most of their information.

I don’t know about you, but I am not ok with that as their primary source of information.

What I also appreciate about the book, McKee recognizes that some of us will be reading this book after the fact.   There will be some of us that have a child that has had a sexual experience to some degree. Instead of shaming, the book helps us point our kids back onto the path.  We help them to realize that their past mistakes don’t negate a positive future.  New choices can be made, new standards put in place.  They can be forgiven and not defined by who they were at that time.  I also appreciate the book addresses children who have been victimized, where they had no control over the decision to become sexually active.  They are not forgotten, and they too are not defined by their past.  There is hope for all of them, for all of us.

More Than Just the Talk, as uncomfortable as it may make you, needs to be in your arsenal.  Use it, don’t just shelve it.  Read through the difficult parts.  Decided, under prayerful consideration, how and when you will begin these conversations with your kids.  Don’t assume it won’t apply to you, your kids, because of your conservative beliefs.

“More Than The Talk” is a powerful tool, that we can use to shape and redirect the path our children are taking.  It opens our eyes, and calls us to action.

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