Let me start off this blog entry by saying that I love social media. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a Linked-In account, an Instagram account, a Pinterest account, a Google+ account, and I regularly check my emails and texts. I get my news online, my weather online, my fashion advice online, my DIY projects online and my latest gossip online too. I would say that I am definitely connected. In fact, most of us are connected in this same way.
Now don’t worry, this isn’t one of those, “you should get rid of your technology because it’s ruining your life" posts. No, I am the last person that you will see put away my technology and the first to get in trouble for having a phone at the dinner table. I get the need, the draw, the almost addiction to be connected. So, I will not be telling you in this post to avoid technology, because I would be a total hypocrite in about an hour. Instead, I want to take you on a journey of some of the conversations that I have had with teens about this need to be connected. I think it will give us all some insight into their world….and maybe our own world too.
“If I don’t respond to his text within like 10 minutes, he gets mad at me and thinks I’m cheating on him or something. It’s annoying.”
This is a common statement that we hear students make about their significant others. There is a need to be connected to them at ALL times. If a text isn’t responded to, there is a subliminal message behind the non-message. Whether the subliminal message is true or not, is a whole different situation. Students in relationships feel a constant pressure to have to be connected or risk detrimental consequences in the relationship.
“When I post a picture on Insta, I constantly check how many likes I get and if I don’t have enough likes in like a couple hours or so, then I delete it.”
The “how many likes is enough” dilemma is different for each student. Some have a goal of breaking their most likes on a picture. If the number isn’t even close, then they delete it. Some have an expectation of what they should get for their likes number and delete it if it isn’t going up fast enough. For one student that number might be 75, for another it might 200. It just depends on what they are used to getting on their pictures and then base that particular picture off of that. This type of connecting is all about social status. The more likes and comments, the higher the status. This is also why some students have a Finsta (fake Insta). It allows them to post what they want without the worry of likes and comments.
“I get so annoyed by my mom when I’m trying to talk to her and she is looking at her phone and just going ‘Uh huh’ and I know she’s not listening.”
Isn’t this ironic? But it’s a common frustration that we hear from teenagers. Why? Because they are able to multi-task social media. They can text, check their Insta feed or their Twitter feed and still listen to everything that you said and be able to say it word for word back to you. Parents are different. We were not raised with an iProduct in our hand, so when we are focusing on our social media, our listening skills tend to go out the window. And guess what? Our kids are noticing and aren’t happy about it. In fact, this is one of the most important connecting conversations, because it highlights the desire that your child has to verbally connect with you too. So, the next time they start talking, put the phone/laptop/iPad aside, make eye contact, and connect with your teenager. These are the connecting skills that an iProduct can’t teach them….only YOU can!
“The worst punishment is getting all technology taken away, because then I feel completely left out and have no idea what is going on.”
Social Media is a student’s lifeline. Without it they flop around like a fish out of water. Being able to like a picture on Insta, watch a Snap story, view the popular YouTube video of the week, or respond to text, is the air that they breathe. This is why a full-out tantrum happens when technology gets taken away. Why? Because they will pay for it the next day at school. ‘Why didn’t you respond to my text?’ ‘Did you see so and so’s Snap story? It was hilarious.’ ‘We didn’t hear back from you on DM so we planned it without you.’ and on and on and on. Does this mean that you shouldn’t take away their technology when they have done something wrong? No. But it will help you to better understand their NEED to be connected. It goes much deeper for them than scrolling with a finger and double tapping.
“Did you hear that….?”
Students who are connected to social media rarely watch the news on TV and rarely read a newspaper. Why? Because they can get all of the latest news from their social media feeds. There are many times that teens know more than I do about the latest things happening in our world. I recently had a conversation with a teenager about the Green Line in the Middle East. When I asked them how they learned so much about it, they said “Oh, I watched a video on Facebook.”
These are just a few of the connection conversations that I have had with teens over the years. And every year…sometimes every couple months, it’s changing. If you are a parent of a teen, you don’t need to be scared of your child using technology or social media, but you do need to be aware. Keep the verbal conversations going with your teen, so that they know how to connect in all ways. Keep up-to-date on the latest social media trends so that you know what to talk to your teen about and so you can better understand their connecting needs. And most of all keep an open mind about this world that your teen lives in. It’s different from yours…..and that’s not always a bad thing.
WRITTEN BY Amy Hanna