Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Tweens/Teens and Technology: What You Need to Know What You Need to Do

  • January 7, 2018
  •    BY Michelle McCoy Barrett, Ph.D. (Contributor)
Buying on line.

by Michelle McCoy Barrett, Ph.D., College of Saint Elizabeth, Associate Professor and Director, Psy.D. in Counseling Psychology, Licensed Psychologist

Technology has made our lives easier, more efficient, and even more enjoyable. Socially, a new world has opened up allowing many to connect in ways that are no longer dependent on proximity. With all of these benefits, there comes a growing number of concerns, particularly for tweens/teens of Generation Z, the “Always on Generation” (born 2001-present).

Lack of Connection and Relatedness

Communication, although more frequent, can lack genuine meaning and connection when done primarily through text or social media outlets. Today’s tweens/tees may be less equipped to understand social cues and may hide behind technology to avoid genuine and meaningful interactions. Texting as a primary mode of communication lacks face-to-face interaction. How often are text messages misinterpreted because of a lack of eye-contact, tone of voice, and body language?

Can’t unplug or Disconnect

Many parents and educators worry about the amount of time tweens/teens spend online and on their phones. Some of the strongest research suggests that our sleep is being affected by technology, specifically cell phone use at nighttime. Phone notifications being on at night affects our sleep and this is especially problematic for tweens/teens. Concerns exist about attention spans, multi-screening, and the constant need to find out what others are doing, known as “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO).

Consequences of Bad Decisions

Perhaps the most frightening concern has to do with the consequences of what kids put out there (e.g., hurtful words, inappropriate images). Emotional regulation and impulse control take on new meaning when one considers how quickly and widely messages can be broadcast. Developmentally, this age group struggles with things like planning, thinking ahead, and making good decisions. It can be a disastrous combination for this group to have instant access to an audience. In addition, there is often the false belief that once something is deleted, it disappears. Teens/tweens need to know that once something is out there, it stays out there!

Today’s parents have an additional job as soon as they allow their kids to enter the world of technology/social media. Often the issue of privacy is raised, however it’s crucial remember that what tweens/teens are doing online is PUBLIC. A diary is private, while a text or post is public. The time to set up monitoring is sooner rather than later, as it’s easier to set up rules with a 12-year-old versus a 16-year-old.

Social Emotional Learning

Given what today’s tweens/teens are facing, there is an increased need to focus on social and emotional learning in schools and at home. Developing an awareness of one’s own emotional state is crucial for healthy development and building relationships. This awareness also serves as the building blocks for understanding other people’s emotional states. With a decrease in face to face communication and an increase in electronic communication, there are fewer opportunities to develop that understanding of others and more room to make errors. Because texting has become the primary mode of communication for tweens/teens that have a phone, this generation may be lacking in social awareness and understanding and the need for these skills to be intentionally discussed and taught is tremendous.

Suggestions

  1. Charge phones at night in a charging station, not in a tween/teens’ bedroom.
  2. Model unplugging as parents.
  3. Be familiar with the types of technology that your kids use.
  4. Know passwords and monitor communications. Start off with this understanding.
  5. Discuss what you see. Mistakes will happen and can be important conversations; the key is to catch these early.

References

Weiss, R., Schneider, J. (2014). Closer together, further apart: The effect of technology and the internet on parenting, work, and relationships. Gentle Path Press: Arizona.

Weir, K., (2017). Disconnected. Monitor on Psychology, Vol 48, No. 3, APA: Washington DC.

 

    • January 7, 2018
  •    BY Michelle McCoy Barrett, Ph.D. (Contributor)
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