Is social media causing arguments in your home? Firstly, let’s acknowledge that it’s not realistic to opt out of technology entirely.
The web and digital devices are now thoroughly integrated into modern life. And to be honest I love using Facebook as a means for keeping in touch with my family overseas. I was recently ‘found’ on Facebook by old school friends that I haven’t seen for 25 years, words cannot describe the uplifting feeling that I had at being reconnected with them.
However, the digital world can be all consuming for us, and our children, especially teens. Here are some tips to help with managing time spent on social media:
1) Set time limits for digital usage
The Internet is open 24/7, and without being mindful of our web usage, it’s easy to get sucked in for hours. It can become addictive for our teens and us. There will always be emails to reply to, messages to check, and websites to visit because the Internet is so vast, with millions of people connected at any one time.
It is important to remember that we are in control of it and not let it control our family time. Try to only check your email twice a day maximum, unless your work is based entirely on email of course! Don’t click any social media sites until you have completed other important tasks for the day. Stop using the Internet after 10pm each day (it disturbs sleep patterns if used before bed time). Setting such boundaries will help you regain control over your time and family life. As parents, we have a huge influence on our kids. Often we feel this isn’t true because it appears that they never listen or do what they are told.
Don’t be fooled, they are watching, and often subconsciously, copying our behaviour. There’s no point shouting at them to turn off their digital gadgets, if we are staring at a screen. It is more powerful to teach by example.
2) Get a family life outside
Because there’s so much activity online, teenagers can often feel that being online is their life. It is our job as parents to remind our kids that the Internet is a ‘tool’ to enhance our lives with easy access to music, recipes, teachings etc, but it is not our life. It is a network that links people together. It facilitates connection on a surface level. It can never give us the things we enjoy in real life: a warm hug; a tasty hot chocolate or the smell of freshly cut grass.
Family life is fun and rewarding, when built on clear, caring communication. As your children mature it is important to make time to connect with them on a personal level, every day. Organise a walk along the beach and chat with older teens, go have an ice-cream or coffee together, play family football at the park with younger ones. If you have to stay indoors start a game of cards and invite them to join you rather than playing digital games individually. Every reward in life requires effort and if we don’t put effort into our family habits now, we will not reap the rewards later.
3) Opt out of tools that don’t serve you
With so many social networks and messaging apps ie: Facebook; Whatsapp; Snapchat; Instagram and Twitter it often feels like we’ve been taken over by them. We have witnessed the change from the days of the plain old calculator, but to our teens, all this technology is normal and they can’t understand why we think it is disruptive because they have never known anything else. At your next family meeting, why not get each member to think consciously about all of the social tools they use, and agree to drop the ones that don’t add value to your family life.
A few questions: Do you feel frustrated by the amount of time you spend in front of the computer or on your phone? Why? What exactly is it that frustrates you?
Do you feel even more frustrated by the amount of time your kids spend in front of the computer or on their phone? Why? What exactly is it that frustrates you? Share your answers with each family member.
4) Get rid of notifications and alerts
If you don’t know what push notifications are, great! Keep it that way. They are pop-up messages that an app displays on your home screen to alert you of something, usually an update. Many apps today have push notifications. Social media apps in particular use push notifications to prompt you whenever there is a new message.
I find push notifications really annoying. I feel that this software crosses the line from enabling to distracting. The constant beeping notifies me of every single thing, essentially creating a false urgency to read and respond immediately. I’m then led down a track of clicking the alert and following through with the next step, which is to read and respond, which then creates a feedback loop to keep checking for updates. The worst thing is that these updates can be for software you don’t even use often, or for social media apps, every few minutes, whenever someone messages you.
Before you know it, your life becomes a sum of reactionary responses to alerts on your phone or computer while your time is at the mercy of the next person who decides to contact you. I watched my daughter ‘studying’ in vain one evening, so distracted by the constant pinging of her phone every few minutes that her homework took twice as long to do, as it should have. We now have an agreement (notice the word agreement, not order) that she leaves her phone elsewhere whilst completing tasks for school and is free to reply to everyone after dinner. If you have an app with alerts that can’t be turned off, then remember you have the choice to uninstall it.
5) Declutter your computer and mobile
Friends used to comment on the mess of my computer ‘home page’ because it was so full of saved documents that I planned to read sometime in the future. I had no filing system and I found the whole mess overwhelming. In the same way that physical clutter can make it difficult to work, digital clutter also makes it hard to get things done. Why not set aside some time today and tidy up your digital files, get your teens to do the same. You will all feel lighter. Some things to start with:
Bookmarks: Remove bookmarks you have no use for. Group similar bookmarks into topical folders.
Desktop icons: Cut down on desktop icons.
Software, Apps: Uninstall software/apps you don’t use anymore and likely won’t be using. There’s no need to pack your devices with unwanted apps. If you really need them next time, you can always install them again.
Digital documents: Organise your files, folders, and delete the stuff you have no use for anymore. Create a classification system such that it’s easy to find your digital documents.
Email: If you don’t already use folders/labels to organise your emails, you should!
6) Unsubscribe from stuff you don’t need
The web has made it easy for us to subscribe to any site we like, and there is usually a free special offer that we can’t resist. Before you know it, you are getting dozens of emails each week that you no longer have much interest in. You know you should unsubscribe or unfollow but fear of missing out on something amazing keeps you locked in. It’s time to set yourself free. If you haven’t used their services by now then you are unlikely to do so this month or this year. Remember, you have a choice. You decide whom you let into your inbox. Encourage your teen to do the same.
7) Meet new people
Last but not least, get out and meet new people. Even though we can meet lots of people online, we should remember that digital tools are there to facilitate a get together not to replace physical meet ups. I use the Internet to invite people to my monthly Women Self Empowerment Group and it is a fantastic way for me to reach out to those in need of my services. However, I always arrange to meet them in person so we can connect at a deeper level. I encourage you to get out and meet people, face to face, get involved with your community. You’ll find it fun and rewarding. Plus you will be setting a wonderful example for your children.
Can you relate to this article? Does social media rule your life? Please share in the comments below.