Dear Dr. G.,
I heard you on the radio talking about social media and why too much use may be a problem for our teens. I'm kind of with you, because my teenage kids spend hours on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. On the other hand, I don't have any compelling arguments to make to my kids about why they should get off the computer, etc. Can you help me, please? I don't like to get my kids angry at me, but I am willing to if I have good reasons. I grew up at a time when my mother made us go play outside and we didn't have all of this technology. I would appreciate any and all help from you.
A Mother In Texas
I believe that some social media use is fine. It becomes problematic, however, when teens are lacking balance in their lives and are texting, tweeting etc. to the exclusion of other activities like exercise, seeing their friends in person and getting out of the house.
Let me tell you my arguments and concerns so that you will be in a better position to persuade your teens to shut off their computers and see the sunshine.
1. I am concerned that our teens are losing out on the ability to learn about and read social cues. They cannot learn to read non-verbal behavior properly if most of their interacting goes on in the virtual world.
2. Part of learning to be a good friend, co-worker etc. is to learn how to cooperate with others. This is not a skill learned on the Internet.
3. Your teens need to learn to be inclusive rather than exclusive and cliquey. There are many more opportunities to learn to be inclusive in real life.
4. Your teens need to learn how to deal with free time without staring at a screen. With less screen time,they will have more opportunity to learn how to relax and use leisure time.
5. Social media creates excessive drama. This is because positive messages are read as more neutral than they are intended to be; neutral messages are read as more negative as they are intended to be and one can only imagine what happens with messages that are intended to be negative.
6. Our teens who are already sleep-deprived are becoming more sleep-deprived because many of them are up until the wee hours of the night texting.
7. Teens need to learn to be present in the moment. Too often, I see teens on their smartphones when they are in the company of their peers. They lose the ability to interact mindfully in the moment. Honestly, even adults do that to each other and it is quite upsetting.
8. Teens are more aggressive and sexual when they feel anonymous and are communicating electronically. Things can get out of hand very quickly with both cyber-bullying and sexuality, as we are painfully aware.
These are some reasons why too much social media is a problem. Talk to your teens and feel free to put limits on their use of social media devices. I wish you luck. Please get back to me if you need more advice.