By Jennifer Rudo
As a mother of two, I worry how smart phone addiction can impact their relationships and mental health. No matter the day, the week or the season, their phones are always front and center.
When we open birthday presents, they’re taking pictures of their presents and posting them to social media, with wrapping paper still hanging from the box. Over the summer when our family headed to the beach for vacation, the priority for our kids was taking pictures with just the right filter and caption to get the most likes. We had spent weeks talking about how excited we were just to be together and get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. However, once we arrived, the kids were more concerned with what their friends were posting. Even after being asked to put their phones away, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) set in and they were taking the phones out once again to see what was happening back home.
It seems that pull to interact virtually with people is stronger than the feeling to bond with those right in front of you. This generation is living life with their nose pressed up against the glass — the glass on their phones. While parents can see the danger, it’s hard to change the behavior. Though teens refer to their online acquaintances as friends, they are struggling to connect with their peers in person. A text can be taken out of context when there is no facial expression or vocal inflection to go with it, so friendships can take a hit. And, technology can certainly alter one’s view of reality. It is no wonder our kids feel bad about their bodies when they follow famous people who have an entire team to do hair and make up before each post.
What we’re seeing is pervasive and dangerous. Numerous studies show that too much tech is bad for kids, developmentally, academically, and socially. But the good news is that we, as parents, can do things to help our teenagers navigate this virtual world.
- Set boundaries. Limit the hours teens spend online and set up ‘phone free’ zones or times. Keep chargers in the kitchen so that everyone can charge their phone, instead of use it, during dinner.
- Encourage healthy choices. Since our kids control who they choose to follow and who they allow to follow them, let’s help this generation create a better, more positive virtual world with social media. Talk about inspirational people who are making a difference. Once you’ve piqued their interest, suggest they look them up to learn more.
- Look in the mirror. We adults need to set good examples and manage our own time and content on social media. We must be honest with ourselves and view our own habits through the eyes of others.
Let’s refuse to let technology take over our kids. Be the change we all want to see.
Jennifer Rudo is Coordinator of Wellness Programming & Mentoring at Jewish Community Services.
Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.