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The Power of Parents

Keegan Lee, a member of the LOG OFF Writers Group, highlights the difference well-informed, mindful parents can make in their teen's journey towards navigating social media.

I have a 13-year-old sister named Kohen. She’s always been mindful when it comes to balancing her screen time with her everyday tasks. She’s responsible, conscientious about how much time she interacts on social media, and observant of what’s truly important. She blocks out any unnecessary notifications because she knows it will lead to divided attention. My sister holds great power in her individual strength because she knows how to refrain from technology when needed. While my sister has come to many realizations on her own, a lot of her self-awareness comes from our parents.

When we first got our phones, our parents allowed us to understand the new level of

independence that was gained. We discussed that our phones were to not be a distraction but a tool that would help life run a little more efficiently. My sister and I became aware of the dangers and manipulations of the internet and, therefore, used our phones in productive and meaningful ways.

There is no law for when an individual should get a phone. Until a person turns 18 years old (when that person is technically “of age”), they have no power over the age they get a phone and how much time they are able to spend on that device. This is entirely up to the parents/guardians. The power and control a parent has over their child’s digital life is immense. For example, at age 21, you are legally allowed to drink alcohol. Alcohol releases dopamine—the same chemical that is released whenever we are on social media. People are restricted to drink alcohol before the age of 21, but they are not limited to any restrictions regarding technology, unless the parents impose restrictions. The authority in charge of their child’s screen time will have the power of their child’s utilization of their device and help prevent obsession.

Parents have the responsibility to educate their children on the effects of technology and digital overload. It is easier for children to become obsessed with something that is always readily available or at their convenience. Children can lose the ability to self-restrain themselves because they won’t be aware of the issues involved. The “joy” they receive from technology will override their self-awareness.

Just as parents have the responsibility of educating their children on the effects of technology, parents also have the responsibility to educate themselves. Many parents today worry more about physical dangers of their children than they do online dangers because it is something to which they can relate.

From a young age, parents say things like “look both ways when you’re crossing the street” or “don’t talk to strangers.” They say these things because they are safety regulations they heard when they were growing up. Therefore, they hold onto the fears they remember from their childhood. Whereas online, oftentimes it is hard for parents to imagine the problems with technology and social media because they are not using it in the same way as their children. For example, in the parent’s childhood, they couldn’t get on their phone and instantly compare themselves to the lives, successes, and possessions of other people. They weren’t worried about what they were wearing because not everyone was watching them.

The pressure to maintain a perfect image online is greater now than it ever has been and teenagers have associated worth with the tiniest of details such as how many likes you get on a post, or the time it takes for someone to respond. You also have instant awareness when you are not invited to something or you’re being left out. These are things that cause a little subtle jab in an individual’s happiness. Parents aren’t always aware of this unless a child communicates it to them.

Parents are the primary determinant as to how a child uses technology. In order to prevent present and future generations from technological addiction, it is vital that proper education and advocacy for digital overload is demonstrated beginning in the early stages of a child’s life and maintained throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

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Cover photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

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