With the holidays here, many kids will receive their first phones, digital watches, and other exciting devices. I wonder how the new technology will impact their lives. Technology provides entertainment, communication, learning environments, and even safety.
Technology has clearly changed lives, including the impact on privacy. In fact, for anyone under 20 years old, privacy is a foreign concept. When we talk about privacy and adolescents, we tend to focus on physical safety threats, but what about the social, even cultural impact?
Teens grew up in a digital world where everything can be recorded and published. They are also used to their location being tracked by parents, friends, and apps. Imagine a world where anything we say or do, and anywhere we go can be tracked and shared publicly. You probably can because it’s our reality today! Adolescents grew up in a world in which privacy isn’t possible if technology is present.
Lack of privacy gave way to our cancel culture. Most of us are aware of this with public figures but consider the implications for adolescents. Their beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and opinions from group discussions to personal conversations can be shared and it’s out of their control. This results in adolescents learning to filter themselves, become more guarded, and inevitably avoid being vulnerable. High school aged kids have a genuine fear that someone will post something terrible about them, and they can’t do anything to keep it from happening. This threat of being cancelled among their peers is real.
This lack of privacy predisposes a whole generation of youth to avoid failures, in turn lowering their propensity for risk-taking. Risk-taking as part of growth and independence involves trying new hobbies and socializing with new friends. It also involves problem solving and being willing to fail.
Parents, consider the following tips in helping adolescents navigate a world where privacy rarely exists.
- Acknowledge their truth, the threat is real!
- Try to understand what technology means to your children. Read the book, Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing and Adults Are Missing, by Carrie James.
- Try to shift from lectures to helping them problem solve solutions.
- Help them identify safe places to be genuine (certain friends/family members) and to set boundaries.
- Help them understand the distortions of “magnification” and “all or nothing thinking.” You can learn more about distortions in my video series here.
- Show them that it’s okay to make mistakes and to fail through your own example. (This one is hard!).
Remember the value in downtime, and we’re also allowed to leave the phone at home occasionally! Try it!
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