I think it is so difficult being a teen these days. Maybe it always was. But the gamut of feelings surely must be intensified under the magnifying glass of social media. It is a conundrum really as parents as to how much we allow. I have a daily battle against the concerns of social media verses the necessity of the children learning to master it. Whilst I would like to avoid it altogether, wisdom tells me that pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t (unfortunately) make it go away. I know that part of the guiding years of childhood is preparing our youngsters to one day become a fully fledged adult, and preparing them for the adulthood they will experience; not the adulthood I experienced, nor in fact, the adulthood I wish they would experience in that parental utopia of my mind. They need to be taught to handle not just money, exams and friends but also that ‘all important’ social media.
The twins were kindly bought a smart phone each by their brother for their fourteenth birthday. Since then I have noticed their creativity (especially Lillie) decrease and their anxiety increase. They had limits, but clearly not enough. We have never allowed any screens in their bedrooms; they all have the accountability app (Covenant Eyes) meaning they could not access that which we deemed inappropriate; they were not allowed to use their phones or computers after nine or before chores were done in the morning. These boundaries were far stricter than the majority of their friends and yet we still saw how adversely the screens affected them. To be available to their friends and acquaintances for 14 out of every 24 hours was wearing them down. If any friends were struggling, they would know immediately via a text, messenger or snap chat. I think at no time in history have teens been exposed to this amount of ‘socialising’, and its immediacy and constancy can be overwhelming.
So Gary and I have been clawing our way back from freedoms we allowed the teens with their phones which have, in hindsight, been too much for them to handle. Let me say, it is much harder setting stricter rules after the fact, than setting strict rules from the start. After much discussion we stopped the usage of phones after 8pm, so as to give the older ones an hour of uninterrupted relaxation watching a film, and preventing them going to bed over stimulated and worried by something which they had seen posted on one social media or another. And we asked that they kept their phone and computer use to under three hours per day, including any school work they did online. Let’s just say we are getting there……Their friends are horrified by the number of rules we have attached to their screen time yet I honestly feel like we have not got enough.
So I am posing a question today. How do you all handle phone and computer use? What rules or guidance do you give your teen regarding their handling of devices? And how much is too much – how much is too little? I would really value your input. I definitely feel like we are getting to a place where their screens are not affecting them too detrimentally. Lillie chose to delete snapchat, which was the social media she felt most negatively affected by, and her creativity has sprung back, and she is so much happier. But she chose to do that herself after I recommended it. This is so much better than me demanding it. I would so appreciate your input as to how you deal with this. And please do share even if you have wildly different opinions than me 🙂