You’ve probably noticed technology is used everywhere and all the time nowadays. Teens and children seem to be particularly glued to their screens, whether it’s for texting, social media, or video games. Although it can be frustrating to see them engrossed in their devices, it’s important to recognize that technology is often their primary means of social connection. In this post, I’ll delve into how age-appropriate technology can serve as a valuable tool for youth to develop and maintain social connections and discuss some guardrails you can set to ensure your child has a healthy relationship with technology.
Ways Technology Offers Social Connection
1. Staying Connected to Far Away Friends
Your child may lose touch with a close friend because they moved to a different state or switched to a different school. Distance and busy schedules can make it difficult to plan travel or play dates. Texting or playing video games online may be the only way your kid can stay in touch with their friend.
2. Building Connections with the Disconnected
Perhaps your child has struggled to make friends or hasn’t found other kids with the same interests. They may use technology or social media to find people with their same interests such as joining a discord chat where they talk about a video game they like, posting cool artwork they create, or having a space where they can watch their favorite podcaster/streamer and discuss it with an online community. It’s important to ensure that the online communities they join are safe and monitored, but overall, technology can be a useful tool for social connection and having meaningful conversations.
3. Lack of Connection Created by COVID
For almost 2 years, kids were stuck inside without regularly seeing their friends at school or their teammates at practice. While it was hard for everyone, our kiddos missed out on so many milestones and periods of growth. Their phones and computers were their only sources of communication to the outside world. I don’t know about you, but if I communicated that way for 2 years, it would be hard for me to adjust! While the lockdowns are over and school is back in session, the communication habits they created are still there.
4. Relating Through Technology
As I mentioned earlier, technology is all around us now. Which means it’s definitely a main topic of conversation in our kids’ lives. Did you see the new Stranger Things episode? Have you played the new Minecraft update? Isn’t this new meme hilarious? Have you seen the latest TikTok trend? Because technology is etched into the younger generation’s culture, it’s a major source of how they relate to each other. Some friendships are even created just because they discover their mutual interest in a video game or YouTube channel.
Ways to Balance the Use of Technology
1. Setting Boundaries
While I listed ways technology can keep our kids stay connected to friends and society, we all know it can be harmful too. Setting boundaries is useful in so many situations, especially with a child’s technology use. An example of setting a boundary could be not allowing any technology at the dinner table to create some quality family time every night. Another could be no video games or TV until homework is completed.
2. Scheduling Time Away from Technology
We could all use an escape from the doom-scrolling and negativity that can come with social media and online communities. A great way to do this is by scheduling time away from it. It’s easy to say and hard to do, but for some reason, it seems easier when it’s on the calendar. So parents, schedule a family activity that doesn’t involve any screens! Such as going for a bike ride, a hike, visiting an amusement park, or trying out a new restaurant. You can also schedule time for your kid such as practicing their favorite sport or playing outside with the neighborhood kids.
3. Modeling Desired Behavior
It’s easy to talk the talk, but we also have to walk the walk! Our kids learn by what they see, so if we are constantly checking our emails or mindlessly scrolling social media, they will likely do the same. It’s important that we model the same behavior we want to see from our kids.