The Love/Hate Relationship between Smartphones and Teen-Girls
Picture this – your teen girl receives a normal-looking friend request on Instagram from someone who shares her interest in music. She accepts, and the two new “friends” begin chatting. The problem is that the “friend” is simply one of many imposter profiles of a 35 year old man posing as a teen girl. Soon, he’s sending your daughter explicit photos, or linking her to information inappropriate for her age and development. Or picture this – a few teen girls begin feuding. While they’re changing for gym class, one of them snaps a photo with their phone of your daughter, and soon the revealing photo has been sent via snapchat around the school. It only takes a few seconds. Anyone with a phone is now a paparazzi, and everyone with a social media account can edit their own gossip magazine – often through the protection and anonymity that the wonderful internet provides to creative users. Furthermore, I have had several teens express their feelings of anxiety and sadness after seeing their friends at a party or event on social media. A party or event they were not invited to. This can ruin an entire weekend!
But kids can’t wait to get their first phone – they can’t wait to keep up with all the happenings of their many “friends.” And kids 15 and younger, can’t even remember what life was like before smartphones, social media, and texting. They’ve grown-up hearing of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and watching their parents text, scroll, and regularly check emails. Adolescents today don’t remember a world without phones, and they want their own device so that they can participate in the wonder of staying connected – everywhere and at all times. But phones have a much darker side, particularly in the life of teens.
Smartphones allow our kids to be overly connected to people that have no business being connected with our kids.
Kids are being berated, harassed, sexually propositioned, and verbally abused – all through the device that they so longed to have. And parents often feed into this by buying a phone for their kids too early, all out of the “so I can contact them in an emergency” excuse. Believe me, my clients have taught me that the likelihood of your kid being abused through their phone is exponentially greater than the likelihood that they’ll experience some family emergency.
Teach your kids about using their smartphone appropriately.
- Model appropriate cell phone use. Start with what we can do. Leave our cell phones at the door. Turn them off at mealtime. Don’t harass our kids with endless texts checking up on them. If we model restraint, maybe our kids will see it’s possible.
- Set routines and structure. No cell phone use at bedtime. Turn the phone off and put it away. As parents our job isn’t meant to be easy. It’s meant to prepare children for life and that means telling them “No” when really, deep down, that’s what they want to hear anyway.
- Offer substitutes. Create opportunities for kids to keep busy. Give them chores and real responsibilities that matter to the family. Let’s stop making
our children’s lives so easy and in the process offer them real diversions. Insist they are active an hour a day. Put them into activities and take away their cell phone.
- Lastly, have conversations with your children. Ask them is they are being abused, bullied, or sent inappropriate pictures. And make sure they are not bullying or exploiting others.
It’s worth a try, isn’t it? After all who is paying the bill!?