Social media is one of the more challenging issues parents face as it seems to take our kids away from us and often leads to conflict. Recently I read an article that gives us all pause to reconsider our dependence upon social media. The title says , “Yes, using Facebook may be making you more lonely.” What about social media affects our kids so that they are feeling lonely?
Parents often ask me questions about limiting social media use, rather than the deeper questions regarding the reasons their kids are so engrossed with it. It is in these questions where we find lasting answers. If we understand what drives our kids’ use of social media, we will discover numerous ways to address and alter the outcome without conflict.
Noticing Our Interaction
The growing challenge this issue represents was driven home to me this summer when at a restaurant in the very remote town of Silverton, Colorado, the waitress said, “I know I am not supposed to do this, but I just have to comment how nice it is to see a family interacting and talking instead of viewing or texting on their phones.
We were surprised by the comment, said thank you, and then looked around the restaurant. At all the tables around us we saw either a young couple, retired couple or family engaged with their phones rather than with each other.
What to look For
My research and coaching with families points to three common reasons for the excessive use of social media:
- Broken family dynamics/communication leads us to avoid each other through a seemingly innocent act of using our phones. In the restaurant that day I would venture to guess that this was driving nearly half of the engagement with phones rather than people.
- Unaddressed negative core values cause kids to use social media to distract themselves from the negativity they are feeling within when unoccupied or bored.
- The breakdown in the parent child relationship leads our kids to try to fill the void with other relationships.
No matter what the reason, if our kids are using their cell phone to avoid themselves or avoid difficult interactions with us, will attempting to limit their use really solve the problem?
The answer may be as simple as adopting a culture of open communication in our homes. This requires setting some boundaries that protect everyone in the family from the type of interactions that cause hurt and result in hiding from each other.
When communication is replaced with activity and cell phone use, it is a good bet that it’s time to stop and take note. If you find yourself in this place, odds are that open communication has broken down and everyone is holding on to some offenses or hurts that are short-circuiting the relationships in your home.
Relationship and Communication
Instead of targeting the kid’s use of social media, target the breakdown in relationships and communication. Most of the kids I talk with do not prefer social media; they prefer face-to-face interaction. However, this is limited by busy schedules, a culture that says it is not safe to let your kids hang out with their peers, and the breakdown of relationships in their families and especially with their parents. Here are a couple ideas that we could implement to build a stronger relationship with our kids.
Be Present- often times when we are around them we forget to really be tuned in with them
Pay attention- our kids send signals of distress without even realizing they are doing it.
Too often I find kids’ using social media and gaming to avoid boredom, loneliness, and as an escape from their feelings about themselves and their families. I know we do not want that for our kids. The reality is that it’s there, what can we do?
If you are looking for help with communication and your family culture, consider the Secrets of Influential Parenting. It will improve all the relationships in your family.
Visit ReviveFamily.com and watch our free webinar to learn how to begin your journey with us.