The irony is that we use social media and tech in our lives so much that we don’t notice how much it may be affecting our well being. This is true for our kids and teens too.
Is tech really that bad for kids?
Perhaps you remember the candy cigarettes we use to have as kids? You know the ones where we pretended (as kids) to smoke even though we knew it was candy. Interestingly the sales of these are now banned in the UK as society has realised, and has the research to prove, that smoking damages our health. But back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s this wasn’t the case. People thought of smoking as a slimming device or it was just regarded as a social habit. Now we know the truth.
I feel the same about phones and laptops for kids. At some point, as a society, we will realise we have allowed our children to access technology too early; children with screens attached to car seats or buggies…giving our kids our mobile phone to play with so they’ll be quiet.
It’s interesting that parents who work (and create) this technology don’t allow their children to have access to this tech.
A 2017 survey conducted by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation found among 907 Silicon Valley parents that despite high confidence in technology’s benefits, many parents now have serious concerns about tech’s impact on kids’ psychological and social development.
But our kids need phones/social media to ‘fit in’
We understand the social pressures…but as parents and carers it’s our role to set the boundaries to keep our children safe and feel supported. The same applies to tech and particularly social media. Despite clear age limits on social media apps, many kids have a social media profile even when they are underage. This startling article about TikToc is one of the most frank and disturbing reads we’ve see in a long time.
We have to wake up to the reality we have created (together) and offer our kids some mindful solutions that help them use gaming tech, phones and social media in a safe and fun way.
What do the stats say?
According to research in 2019, having a social network profile has increased by almost 60% of the population in the UK in the last 10 years (in the USA it has increased by over 70%)
Social media and tech are clearly here to stay so we need to learn to live with this in our lives and teach our kids how to do this too.
Is it too late?
There is a fantastic interview with physician, Gabor Mate, about the effects of social media on young people. It may be the best 8 minutes you have every spent.
In the future, perhaps we will realise that introducing our kids to tech/gaming/social media needs a higher age limit to help compensate for the influence it has on the developing brain of our kids and teens.
By then (like candy cigarettes) we will have the research to back up what many parents (and teachers) feel and notice…. that overuse of tech or introducing it too young has a detrimental affect on the mental health and well being of children and teens.
(re) Connecting our Kids and Teens
In our work, we hear lots of examples from exasperated parents who see a difference in the challenging behaviour and sleeping habits of their children. Exhausted and struggling adults don’t always understand why kids are behaving this way – thinking that it is a deliberate act when really it’s about the struggle their kids have to self regulate, relax or learn due an overworked nervous system that doesn’t know how to switch off.
Time and time again our tutors have helped young people balance the highly stimulating tech lifestyle with some mindful practises that have reduced the anxiety and stress young people have been feeling – parents think we are magicians. We aren’t. It’s just common sense.
As parents, carers and teachers we are (sometimes) at our wits end about how to help our kids when we realise that they have become addicted to their tech and social media accounts.
But take a breath, because it isn’t too late to help them through this.
Top 3 tips to get started
These are some tips for helping kids who are addicted to tech/social media/gaming
Model by example – yes it starts with you. If you have your phone at the dinner table then so will your kids. I think parents feel overwhelmed about having a conversation with their kids (or perhaps they are worried about not being interesting/fun enough to talk to!) Your kids are truly desperate to learn from you. They respond well when you (genuinely) show them interest. No faking it. Just speak mindfully from your heart.
No phones or tech in bedrooms – at first this is really tough if you haven’t set this boundary. However…mindfully explain to them why you don’t want to use this in their room anymore (when we say mindfully we want to move away from a rant/tone-that suggests-you-are- in-charge). Try sharing your worries about them. Tell them how much they mean to you, how much you miss their chat, their company and how you wish you could just hang out together more often.
Limit how much time they have on their phone/device – another tough one (if no boundaries have been put in place). As you start to reduce access and set limits, then be ready to introduce another activity instead. We don’t mean homework or housework… we mean do something together like going to the cinema, make something together (baking?) or take a drive to the beach/forest, kick a ball about in the garden or play a board game. What did your kids like to do before tech/social media and gaming came into your life?
We can only imagine your head is saying “they’ll never do this” as it may feel as if you are dealing with an addict in your home. But we know you love your kids and you are there to be the very best parent for them; in the most mindful, caring and compassionate way. You can do this and if you try, you’ll see some amazing results.
Lorraine E Murray is the founder of Connected Kids – the worldwide programme training adults to teach their kids and teens meditation. She will be running a 1 hour masterclass (live and recorded) for anyone who is interested in diving deeper into the issues we face when trying to help kids who are addicted to their phones/tech or social media. The masterclass will include:
- useful insights into recent findings about social media and tech
- practical ideas to implement in your family/home to help reduce tech overload
- mindful practises available to all levels of experience to reduce the fight/flight/freeze (activated by tech overload)
- tips and idea on how to help your kids/teens engage with all of the above