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Aug
15
3 Teachable Moments for Teens on Social Media

by Kevin Foley, M.Ed., LPC

While I was growing up, my sisters were constantly on the phone. It was so bad that our mother made the investment in a new phone line all together. I didn't understand it at the time. Teenagers wanted to talk all day at school and then more at nights and on weekends. What my sister realized, at the time, was the value in staying connected.

Teenagers Connect

We have evolved significantly since the late 70 and early 80s. Teenagers no longer need a landline to connect. With the birth and technological advancements of the cell phone, communication is instantaneous. With Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram (to name just four of hundreds of cell phone apps), the messages can be sent by photo, instant message, and direct message. These messages are sent through what I have come to believe is the Internet 2.0, commonly known as "Social Media."

Not all connections are innocent. As parents, aunts, and uncles, we have a role in helping teens learn the emotional challenges they experience. I find there are three simple ways we can teach with social media.

Three Things to Teach

First, remain involved. Teenagers may fuss over you wanting to know what they're up to on social media. (See through the fussing as a way of them saying "thank you for caring.") Parenting and being involved is about caring for the teenagers. Ask them what they're up to on social media. Encourage them to give you access to their accounts, or at least "friends" in their social media. This is a great way to stay connected to your teenager.

Second, process difficult messages. Due to their brain not being fully developed, their decision-making frontal lobe hasn't gotten a chance to help them. If they get involved in frustrating exchanges they have with others in social media. This is a great way to teach them how to control their emotions and defuse conflicts in a positive way.

Finally, set high expectations. Let them know what is acceptable and unacceptable in relationships with friends, family, and strangers. Understand that they will make mistakes. Raise the bar of standards for them to learn what is appropriate in friendships and what is no longer worth tolerating.

Teenagers will struggle on social media. Many of us struggled in relationships as teenagers too. Set the standard and comfort them as they learn their own individuality.

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