Your teens never cease to amaze me. We all talk about how addicted they are to social media.
Try getting your 15-year-old son to turn off his video game and come down to dinner and guess what? He may be down in 20 minutes if you're lucky. Having a group of teenage girls over to your house? Why is it that they are with each other in person and nonetheless choose instead to text on their smartphones rather than talk to each other? Many times I have seen this same sight outside of high school and middle schools. The kids are with each other yet choose instead to be on their phones. What exactly is going on here?
I will tell you what is happening here. Our teens are growing up in an age of Facebook rather than real face time. They view their phones as an appendage rather that as simply a means of communication and yes many of them are addicted to social media. I know. I see this all the time. I work with teens and tweens all week long and talk to their weary parents as well.
I have recently happened upon a very interesting phenomenon. The teens who are going away to sleep-away camp where they have no access to their phones and computers are telling me -- drumroll please... that THEY ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO A TECHNOLOGY BREAK. I kid you not. Many of these kids who are addicted to their technology all during the school year are looking forward to freeing themselves from social media, taking a break and not having to worry about the constant checking of texts, Facebook, etc. I was blown away when the teens first started telling me this. They are aware that the constant communication is time consuming and often leads to misunderstandings.
During the school year they appear to have no desire or reason to take a break. Sleep-away camp leaves them no choice but to part from their social media. So, while they may initially balk they regard it as a sense of freedom. They can enjoy being in the moment. They can talk to the peers that they are with. They can go outside and see the sun shine rather than playing video games or checking Facebook constantly. And, the only thing that tweets are the birds.
I say way to go, sleep-away camps. Keep the social media away from the kids and let them be present in the moment. I remember that when I was in sleep-away camp there was no TV allowed and although I thought that that would be unbearable it was very bearable. We found all kinds of ways to entertain ourselves and each other.
A summer without social media is incredibly healthy and freeing. No wonder kids at sleep-away camp form close and often lifelong friendships.They have the opportunity to get to know each other without frequent interruptions, vibrations and ringing phones.
Perhaps parents who are not sending their kids to sleep-away camp can also learn something from this. Maybe for the summer you can limit your teens' use of technology. Take the laptops out of their rooms for a bit. Limit their use of their phones. Have them charge their phones outside of their rooms so they are not up all night texting. Instead of focusing on reading text messages, Instagram or tweets perhaps they can focus instead on reading their friends' faces and seeing the outdoors.
Look. I know that parents are afraid of kids' reactions to limitations but I have always said that parents need to learn to deal with their kids' anger. The kids will get will get over their anger. They will still love you. And, they will still call you to babysit their own kids in the future.
Have a nice summer and parents perhaps you might want to consider unplugging a bit yourself!