In 2018, what are some things that a teenager would define as happiness? Some of them are age-old pursuits: more freedom, financial success, lots of friends, having fun times and fun things, etc. But as of this past decade, social media has become an endless loop of trying to find happiness and satisfaction for our kids and teenagers. Their time, desires and money seem to revolve around a smart device that has the ability for social networking.
Is this all bad? Not necessarily, but what appears to be a common theme is that many times this constant pursuit of happiness leads to a dead end, or even worse…loneliness, depression and a false identity. They experience a temporary satisfaction that leaves them longing for more. So as parents, what should we do?
- Social media can make you genuinely feel unsatisfied with who you are right now. Seeing others have a “better life” than you can push you to want to become someone other than you. (Jealousy and Envy)
- If not careful, you can allow others to define you. Your happiness and self-worth can come from how many likes, favorites, followers, and comments you receive.
- Many social media users present a façade of how their life truly is. Sometimes they may post things and stretch the truth or add an extra filter to make them look better.
- Social media is a fun and useful tool to keep ongoing connections. Social media should be a furthering of your connections, not solely the place where you connect.
- Encourage them not to take their social media life too seriously.
- Have frequent conversations. The more you stay connected with your kid, the safer and smarter they’ll be.
- Gently remind them of their true identity and what true happiness and success are.
- Set appropriate boundaries and alternatives. (For example: Limiting screen time and quantity of apps decreases negative impacts. Alternatives = outside, play, work on something, recreate, creating, hobby, sport, etc.)
- Show and model to them what happiness and success look like.
- Encourage them to use social media as a tool for good: helping others, communicating kind words in times of need, enhancing their own life, passions, and talents, etc.
- Choose to follow “good”: friends and family, people who are funny, uplifting, creative, and pointing you to where/what you want to do in life.
Does social media equal unhappiness? No, but it’s what you make of it. It’s similar to idolizing sports, academics, and adventure; if not careful, these things can lead to unhealthy habits and false identities. So let’s help our kids understand these hard truths; let’s help them take control of their heart, mind, and actions before other things