We’ve all been thrust into the world of technology without a guidebook. Add to this mix -teens, their growing brains and varied interests, and things can get confusing and overwhelming pretty quickly.
In the midst of such a digital landscape where devices rule our every emotion, we have a greater need to ensure that our children adopt the right ways of interacting with people in the real face to face world. Teenagers download social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat within 2 minutes of receiving their new smart phones. Here’s how teens can engage positively with strangers and friends while hanging out on these platforms.
Is our need to scroll through posts on Instagram and watch stories on SnapChat intentional in any way on our part? What is the value proposition of such activities? What is the pursuit of likes and digital cheers like, exhausting?
In the age we live in, we’ve become anxious about getting more likes, per story or picture, just to prove our popularity in real life. But in reality, things evolve slowly, brands are not built at lightning speed like how they seem to be online. It takes years to build a reputation, but seconds to dissolve it.
Cyberbullying is being hateful and harmful via online words and actions, deliberately and repeatedly. We only know that such a thing exists because we’ve all been touched by kindness in our real lives. Anonymous messaging apps have turned our lives into stream of name calling and insults.
Not everything is jest:
What’s the harm in doing some harmless fun, right? Without context or consent, a word or a picture can be misunderstood and it doesn’t take time for such a thing to turn into an unacceptable situation. Didn’t such things happen earlier, you ask. The speed and the magnitude with which virtual wildfires spread is a factor for many problems. Some of our actions online can make for some big real life problems.
Double down on kindness:
When you hear or are subjected to hateful comments on the internet, ask yourself. What is happening in their lives, homes and hearts that’s causing these people to act they way they do. Its difficult to, but most of the times, the way we feel has a very limited bearing on intended meaning behind the message. Sadly, we’re all trying to understand others intentional and unintentional communication when most of it happens via non verbal means like texts and Snapchats.
Nothing that’s ever put on the internet ever dies. Save your life by protecting your online reputation. A momentary indiscretion can have life changing consequences in personal and future professional lives.
Empathy is the single most factor that determines what kind of a human, leader and adults we’ll be. What is Empathy? Empathy is how we treat absolute strangers. It is our ability to put ourselves in the situations that others are going through. When we communicate via online, we don’t know enough of the tone and intent of the other person to empathize with them 100%.
Distraction is not busy:
Being busy for the sake of being busy, having to catch up on other people’s feeds are not real like skills. Understand the implications of too much time on devices is having on our relationships and productivity in real life. Its impossible to catch on all those hours of YouTube anyway. Its a lost cause.
Kids, intentionally or not, are now being exposed to online porn at the age of 10. Understand that, like a lot of fake news out there, not everything we see of other people with perfect bodies is necessarily real. Lady Gaga might have been born that way (cue, her famous song), but not every one is.
Create not compete:
Use social networks for what they were originally intended for – to learn, grow and share wisdom. Using it to compare yourself to perfect 3 point basketball shots or unreasonable standards of beauty and celebrity lifestyles can be unhealthy and unnecessary.
Anonymous messaging apps have made it easy to name call, hurt and insult with words and actions online. When you see such actions, speak up, or distance yourself. Write or speak only messages you will be able to say to the other person’s face in real life. Before hitting send, ask yourself, is this a true representation of what I’m as a person, and what why my values are? Does what I’m about to write now, matter in a few minutes or hours? Just because many people do it, doesn’t mean it is the norm and true nature of society.
Call yourself out:
Periodically, put some checks on yourself. How much of what you do is useful and productive engagement and communication? If you find yourself being tethered to the internet, just take note of how fragmented your attention is becoming. Just imagine how heavily imbalanced the way we spend our time is. Understand its impact on sleep, our health and our long term priorities.
Sign a phone contract:
Signing a contract on how well we use gives us an intention and makes us accountable to ourselves and our family on how we use technology on a daily basis. Here’s a sample teen smart phone contract.
If you’ve a cause, there’s no better medium than the internet to convey it. You can use to reach out to people in need and collaborate to make massive positive impact. There will always be uncertainty and chaos, but you can choose by your positive actions to determine what prevails. Social media in its best form is the best tool to connect, collaborate and share valuable social messages.
Live three dimensional:
As a result of only exchanging verbal communication, our emotions are not perceived and processed correctly by the receiver. While we continue to communicate linearly this way, we only engage our right brain which is logical and literal. We leave emotion behind, because our brains don’t see the need to read non verbal cues in a text message or a Facebook message. So from a uni dimensional personality, become your exuberant lovely wholesome person. Breathe, play and simply just live.
Technology’s ubiquitousness means we’re always expected to be around for others in their time of need. Set expectations with yourself and with others about your use of the medium, the hours you’re on it, and the other hours you’re unavailable. And please for your own health’s sake, put a complete stop to the mania of having to reply immediately.
Keep your identity small:
If you’ve used it, leave it better than you found it. That’s the unspoken rule of any service or place we use. Just use the medium less, so you can keep your footprint to a minimal. Understand why you’re being drawn to the internet or reaching out for technology to stimulate you. Ask yourself questions. Are there times and days you’re drawn to it more? Are there events that are triggering this behavior? Just use less.
Make deep connections offline:
When we communicate face to face with others, the mirror neurons in our brains help us deal with the other person’s facial expressions and cues that their body is sending. As our brain interprets this data, our levels of dopamine rise when we hear something nice in what they’re relaying to us. This is how we connect. This is how we build out social currency, but being understanding and diplomatic about others emotions and feelings. This is how we find common ground, create rapport and build social networks in real life. And it starts at the family dinner table where there’s no place for devices. Have memorable conversations in real life, and network well. Remember, a network is physical before its virtual and available online. Have memorable conversations in real life, and network well.
Facebook literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains. It’s a social-validation feedback loop… exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators … understood this consciously, and we did it anyway.
~ Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president
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