Teens hooked on social media

By CANDIECE KNIGHT

Thursday, October 24, 2019

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MANY parents see social media as a necessary evil in the lives of their teenage children. They do not love the fact that their teens are always on their cellphones doing God knows what, but they understand that a large amount of the socialisation carried out by this generation is done virtually. While parents often wish they had more control over their teens' digital life, no good parent wants to be the reason their child is ostracised from his/her peers.

Life coach and author of parenting self-help book Mayhem, Mirth and Mastery: Memoirs of Single Parenting Caleen Diedrick, says it is natural to expect that children will want to become users of social media as they become pre-teens and teenagers.

“The thing that we need to recognise as parents is that when children become teenagers they are going to want to talk, they are going to want to interact. This is a natural part of development,” she told All Woman. “If it is that we fostered a space that the children felt safe enough to come and talk to us about it, then we wouldn't need to police to the extent that we are now policing.”

She advised that in trying to protect your child as much as possible from the perils of social media, it is not only important to set limits on device usage, but also to familiarise yourself with the platforms and know who your child is interacting with.

“If they're on social media, they are exposed to all kinds of things. You need to know as parents not only who follows your child but who your child is following,” she noted. “What are they feeding themselves with? Is it celebrities? Gossip pages? You need to know who is influencing your children. You would be surprised by the impressions that the little snippets of people's lives that they see on social media can have on their mental health.”

Despite our best efforts, however, it is not an easy task to wean children who seem to have been born with gadgets built into their palms. These parents share when they realised that their teens were hooked to social media, and the action that they took.

 

Cheryl, 41, mother of two:

I thought my 14 year old was spending too much time on social media late at night and it was causing her to wake up late in the mornings, so I decided to have the Internet service in the house suspended for a month. After three days I realised that I was the only one suffering because she was using her lunch money to put on data, and she also went to school and told a teacher that she couldn't do her assignment because of an outage at home. I decided to restore the connection but take her phone at night. I thought this was working fine, but then soon discovered that she could access Whatsapp and Instagram from her laptop even if I had the phone. Now I just use good old cold water if she won't wake up in the mornings.

 

Carla, 36, mother of one:

My son is 16 and he is a lost cause. The screen is always in his face. It's like he's a zombie around the house. But I see that that is how all of his friends are, too, so I just had to get with the times. Instead of calling him a million times without response, I text him on Whatsapp when I need him to know or do something. When it really gets bad I unplug the modem and wait for him to come into the living room.

 

Martin, 44, father of four:

I realised my daughter was addicted to the phone when I left her on the couch one morning and left a breadfruit roasting on the stove. I said, “Kadie, turn the breadfruit one more time then turn it off for me in about five minutes. Y'hear?” And she looked up from the phone and told me, “Yeah, cool”! About an hour after that my neighbour called me saying she smelled something funny over my house, but she didn't think anybody was there because she called Kadie and didn't hear her. I told her to go inside and check. Kadie was still on the couch, on the phone with earphones in. She said she thought I was telling her later when she said, “Yeah, cool”!

 

Marionne, 35, mother of three:

My daughter is always recording everything. She can't take a bite of the food before she takes a picture at the perfect angle, finds the right Snapchat filter for it, think of the right caption, and posts it on her Story. If I ask her to watch her baby brother for 10 minutes she will have 10 minutes of recordings, plus 100 pictures. Her father is abroad so he always sends her expensive phones. I never realised how bad it was until I found her profiles on social media. When I saw her Instagram, I literally didn't recognise my own daughter!


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