By Tiffany Harper, LCSW, July 3, 2018 –
Parenting today’s kids can be a challenge. Most parents remember a simpler time when TV shows were wholesome, phones were attached to the wall, and social communication was conducted by writing notes (oftentimes folded creatively and passed in class).
In those “simpler times,” it seems that values were also different. Because our children are exposed to so much, both directly and indirectly, it is important to make good use of “teachable moments.”
Teachable moments happen in the course of life, unfolding more naturally than if we planned a formal, sit-down talk. Teachable moments can be applied to any situation, but one important area of focus is technology.
Parents’ responses to their teen’s use of technology tend to exist on a spectrum. There are parents who try to protect their children from as much exposure as they can. They ban their kids from social media sites, restrict and monitor television and internet usage and maybe even read all of their text messages.
This can cause strained relationships between parent and teen. On the other end of the spectrum are parents who are totally unaware of what their child watches, posts, and texts. This can send the message that parents don’t care and lead to unwanted behaviors.
There is a middle ground, however. Most TV shows have ratings, and most movies are reviewed on websites like IMDb.com. Look for tips and details on why the movie earned the rating.
When in doubt, the best way to evaluate appropriateness would be to take the time to watch the show by yourself first and then with your teen. Perhaps there is a character who is deciding whether or not to have sex, drink with friends, or skip school. That opens the door for vital discussions with your teen.
It doesn’t mean a full-blown lecture is required, but it opens a dialogue and provides an opportunity to discuss what your expectations are as a parent as well as tuning in to how your teen is forming opinions about these issues.
Social media constantly changes, so it takes some effort to be up-to-date on the popular sites and apps. Occasionally checking in with your teen about what is being posted is tricky but necessary. Some parents demand passwords to their teen’s accounts, and other parents don’t know anything about the latest apps.
Non-judgmental, open-ended questions can be asked, such as “What did you think of Susie’s tweet about her breakup?” This promotes discussion about what is appropriate to post.
It is also a good idea to educate teenagers about their digital footprint, helping them understand that once it’s “out there” future employers and colleges can make decisions about them based on what has been posted, even if it was in the distant past.
Remember that not all social media is bad and all discussion surrounding social media doesn’t have to be serious. In fact it can promote bonding, as lots of laughs can be shared over watching “You Tube” videos with your teen.
Here are some guidelines for making the most of these discussions with your teen:
• Be clear and firm about your expectations.
• Try to be non-judgmental when your teenager is expressing their views.
• Lighten up, and use humor when possible.
• Take a closer look if you have reason to be concerned about your child’s safety.
• Keep it brief. A message can be conveyed in a small amount of time. Any conversation that lingers loses effectiveness, as it tends to turn into a lecture.