Dr. Kathy is a speaker at our 2015 Hearts at Home conferences. When Dr. Kathy talks, moms listen! She studies kids and has a heart for helping parents know their kids.
Dr. Kathy was my co-author on the Hearts at Home book No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are. I’m thrilled she chose to write Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World with us!
We are experiencing the culture of now.
Our teens think they can have what they want when they want it. Now. They have good reason because nowadays everything seems always to be available. Google. Siri. GPS. iTunes. Redbox. Netflix. Movies on Demand. DVR. Digital pictures. Facebook. Apps.
I remember when online shopping wasn’t available and shopping took time and effort. I remember the days before online streaming when videos had to be rented from a store; that meant I had to drive there, park, go in, search, choose something, wait in line, pay for it, drive home, watch it, and return it soon after. I can remember looking up numbers and addresses in actual, paper phone books—and unfolding paper maps to figure out how to get from here to there. The business of living took a lot of horsing around; it definitely wasn’t the culture of now.
When today’s teens don’t get what they want the way they want it right now, many complain and argue. They may accuse us of not caring for them. Subconsciously they may think our job is to keep them happy. Each of us, on the way to adulthood, developed some narcissistic tendencies. It’s considered a normal part of development. However, this generation has taken it to the extreme and the self-focus is lasting much longer.
The culture of now is a cause of self-centeredness. Smart phones have definitely contributed to this. Teens hate turning theirs off or to “silent” for even a short time. Many have FOMO—the fear of missing out. They want to know what’s going on as it’s happening. Now.
Let’s be honest: Some parents have FOMO, too. We have grown accustomed to knowing what’s going on in our friends’ lives through Facebook. We are used to real-time news and knowing what’s going on in the world. We’re afraid if we don’t log in we’ll miss out on something we need to know.
So what can we do to battle this culture of now—in our lives and in the lives of our teens? We can take some steps in the right direction. There’s hope for us and the next generation to learn that happiness is circumstantial but joy is eternal.
1. We can implement screen-free days and occasions. To combat self-centeredness that sometimes displays as a fear of missing out, we can institute days and places free from digital distractions. This forces us and our kids to truly interact. Our teens need to discover they can live without knowing constantly what’s going on with their friends. When the world doesn’t end and relationships don’t fail when they’ve been disconnected for a few hours, they realize they may have more freedom than they thought. No one’s happiness should be determined by how often they comment on posts or how quickly people text them back.
2. We can mentally note and carefully call attention to what happens during tech-free times. During planned tech-free times, make mental notes of how long it takes your children to calm down, focus, and engage with the family. See if you can find times when they are obviously enjoying themselves and forgetting their phones. Tactfully, without inordinate attention, encourage them to discover they’re happy without being tied to some screen or smart phone.
3. We can present them with opportunities to help and serve others. Nothing gets the focus off self better than directing focus on others! Getting out among people, especially with the goal of meeting others’ needs, will wake teens up to activities and events and people they may be missing. They will be reminded of the human side of this world and the needs around them. Whether it’s helping an elderly neighbor with yard work or serving a meal at the homeless shelter, our teens need to get a new perspective of what’s happening “now.”
Used with Permission. Copyright 2015 by Kathy Koch.
What about you? What strategies have you used to manage the screens in your home?