The advent of smartphones has brought about a sea change in the behavior of teens. Teens spend a significant chunk of their time plugged into their smartphones. They refuse to interact with parents and relatives. Teens prefer to connect with their friends in the virtual world through text messaging, chatting, rather than meeting them. This adds to the chagrin of parents. Teens are always glued to their smartphones. What is the remedy?
Smartphones, while useful for communication, schoolwork, and entertainment, can cause problems, if they are overused. Children have a difficulty in concentrating on their studies when most of their time is spent on smartphones and have a poor academic performance. The number of depression cases and subsequent suicides have skyrocketed. There has been a rise in anxiety disorders, leading to unhappiness among the teens.
Incessant networking with friends from the virtual world has led to a craving for virtual attention through ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. The teens cringe as they do not want to deal with less number of ‘likes’ and ‘unfollowing’. It matters to the teens about how many people approve of their countenance or ideas or opinions. Teens believe in others’ viewpoints, as facts. Many times the social media users give ‘likes’ because they think that it would be rude to give a dislike. Many social media users thoughtlessly use dislikes. The self-esteem of the teens using social media, thus, get affected and this constant seeking of support from the virtual world creates a sense of paranoia among them.
But it is not ideal to snatch the phones from the teens as it will cause unbearable pressure on the teens. Parents need to react in a calm, calculative, sensitive and tender manner so that the self – confidence of the child doesn’t get affected. Teens want their own space and independence to interact with friends and that should be respected.
Parents should share such a relationship with their teens that the teens would not hesitate to open up to their parents if they feel traumatized by the comments on social media. If the teen shows annoyance, the parents should not ignore or overreact. It will only make matters worse. There were problems with handling adolescents earlier also, but the problems have increased manifold due to the aggressive use of social media by the teens.
Parents need to send this message across to children that the online world is a virtual world, not a real world. Every challenge faced by a teen online will have a different solution. There cannot be any standard solution. The parents will have to sit with their children, understand their problems and then give a solution for that specific problem. It would be annoying if the parent tries to severe off all connections with the teen’s friends belonging to the virtual world. On the contrary, some rules can be laid down, like, during vacation times or on weekends, at certain times the social media should not be used. But the parents should also abide by these rules as the famous saying goes: “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Screen sabbatical is the term used by psychologists to explain that one can have more free time by avoiding looking at the screen most of the waking time. So this kind of a rule, if followed by all members of the family, will lead to a healthy interaction among the family members and children will also learn to emulate their parents in certain ways. Parents need to remember this famous quote that:
“Rules without relationship leads to rebellion;
Relationship without rules leads to chaos;
Relationship and rules lead to respect and responsibility”.
Dhritidipa Mookherje, Lecturer of English