Sometimes Social Media is not very Social

The Lonely Side of Social Media

As a parent of older teens, I do my best to stay current with today’s social media sites and apps. The best I can manage these days is Twitter and Facebook, which is now, according to my teens, a site for “old people.”   I guess I can’t argue with them when I see my mom posting things to their pages and signing off with, “Love, Grandma.” To be sure, it’s the modern day equivalent to pinching their cheeks in public. Grandmas can somehow get away with it…parents, on the other hand, cannot.

parents at computer 300x169 Sometimes Social Media is not very Social
Sometimes social media is not very social

As I browse through my news feed, I see my friends with younger children post pictures of cute shenanigans or share amusing things their kids say or do. I am not allowed to do that….EVER! Every time I take a picture of my teens, the first words they say are, “You’d better not post that to Facebook!” So, I am left to experience all of the joys, triumphs and failures of raising teens alone. My kids are doing some really cool things, saying things that make me laugh out loud and daily impressing me with their ability to navigate tough waters. But I cannot share this and I am coming to see why. They are people who have rights to their own lives. Of course, it was nice when they were little and we could choose their clothes, their food and sometimes even their friends. Not so anymore, and that’s a good place to be. But, it’s a lonely place to be. So, Moms and Dads, take heart in knowing that there is a huge population of us parents of older teens out there who feel the same way. You are not alone! I encourage you to treasure these days as much as you did when they were little by keeping a private ‘Facebook’ in a journal that you can give them someday when they need to be celebrated.

Snow Plow Parenting

super mom med 300x199 Snow Plow ParentingThere is a new buzzword in parenting circles today…the ‘snow plow parent.’ These well intentioned moms and dads are closely related to their twins, the helicopters. Just like a snowplow, they go ahead of their kids and move any obstacles out the way so that the kids have a smooth path in which to move forward. The problem, as you can guess, is that it robs kids of the sense of accomplishment and value they receive from solving problems, learning to handle loss and forging their own paths.

As a parent who ‘snowplows’ at times, I can tell you that the tricky part is when your child battles with depression, anxiety, a learning disability, a physical limitation or handles stress by turning to substances. As a parent of a struggling teen, I naturally want to minimize obstacles out of fear that if our child struggles, he might turn even more towards his dangerous coping behavior and his problems will only deepen. This cycle of rescuing in order to protect our children from themselves can feel like a death spiral.  And I know I am not alone because many parents call each day, sharing a similar story of feeling out of control and seeing that their teen is “spiraling out of control.” It is so enticing for us as parents to get overly involved in the situation when we feel like our child is behaving out of control. Most parents have a hard time sitting back and watching their kids work through adversity on their own, but it’s often the only way for children to learn to trust themselves and gain the confidence needed to navigate through adolescence and adulthood. If we remove the obstacles for them, they feel paralyzed to handle any hardships that will inevitably come once they leave home.

Could it be that our attempts to help our kids have perhaps caused some of those issues in the first place because we have unwittingly given them the message that they are not capable people and must have our help with everything? There is no guilt here…our children know that we have good intentions. They do. But I have come to recognize my own need to show my kids that I trust them to be capable, strong, and creative in their problem solving. Even when I see them struggling and using dangerous coping mechanisms such as cutting, drugs, sex, etc., I am called to let go. My role as a parent is not to drive the snowplow but to simply pick up a shovel and work alongside my teen.

 

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What is the impact of social media on your teen?

Screen Shot 2015 06 02 at 1.08.52 PM 300x195 What is the impact of social media on your teen?These days, being a celebrity can be as simple as doing your job. For Alex, a Texas High School student who works at Target, this couldn’t be any more apparent. You see, Alex works at Target as a cashier and one day a girl who is known as, ‘Rim’ on Twitter, tweeted a photo of Alex bagging her groceries. Now, that tweet has been shared nearly a million times and Alex has more than half a million followers. He has been tweeted by Target and Google, and even has even been contacted to be on the Ellen Show. Throughout the day, #Alexfromtarget has been the top trending post on Twitter. And, all Alex had to do was do his job and be found to look somewhat like Justin Bieber by teenage twitter users.

What’s interesting is that this celebrity-making phenomenon is by no means new to Alex’s story. Social Media has been the creator of many pseudo-celebrities. There have been many scientific studies published in the last few years about the social phenomenon of celebrity-making social media sites. Social media users create their own reality. They become mini celebrities in an entirely me based reality. From research topics that show how ‘selfies’ breed narcissism to entire Facebook photo albums staged to look like the user is on an exotic vacation, social scientists have considered it all. In the last year I have read positive reviews of Facebook being a help in overcoming drug addiction to negative reviews of Facebook fueling cyber bullying.

So, where does your teen fall in the midst of this social media debate? Perhaps your son or daughter has been involved in some painful cyber bullying either as a victim or an aggressor. Or, maybe your teen simply loves posting selfies. Either way, it’s important to open a discussion about what social media means. Often, it is difficult to put boundaries on social media usage, especially when it gets out of hand. But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Open up discussions with your teen about how social media has affected them and what they use it for.

While we may just shake our head at the silliness of nearly a million people retweeting a picture of a teenager doing his job, we cannot ignore that this is a huge part of our teenagers’ lives. Invite your teenager to discuss the impact of social media with you. It’ll give you a different perspective into their lives and maybe, just maybe, help you understand why #alexfromtarget is such a big deal.