Ok, here goes. Social media has been heavy on my mind and heart lately. Social media continues to be more and more addicting as it sucks away life from so many of us… that sounds dramatic, but it’s really true. I was so excited to be able to attend this Collin Kartchner seminar. It really opened my eyes to what our kids need when it comes to social media and technology.
I’ve shared my worries and concerns about technology several times. In fact, I wrote a post titled Technology is Ruining our Kids where I explored some of the negative impacts of technology. Lately, I’ve been talking to friends about technology a lot, too. As a result, I hosted a book club where some friends got together to chat about The Tech-Wise Family.
So much has happened surrounding all these events and conversations that has kept me thinking and worrying about technology.
Recently, I came across a post I wrote clear back in 2012 where I was already struggling with social media. It’s not new! I’ve been sharing about how important it is to train our kids to use technology and social media for years.
THE BATTLE WITH TECHNOLOGY
I keep waiting for the perfect words and thoughts to share. But there is no one-solution-fits-all. Technology shifts and changes and keeps morphing, so this one powerful moment I keep waiting for will probably never come. I’ll keep gathering info and sharing my thoughts as they come.
You know you’re supposed to be worrying about something if it keeps coming to the forefront of your mind over and over and over again. For me, it’s always accompanied by a pricking feeling to do something about it.
I know there are a lot of fellow worriers out there. Ever since I started talking about social media here there have been countless emails, comments, and texts going around asking the same kinds of questions.
How much screen-time should my kids have? Is it a privilege or a right?
When should kids be allowed to have their own phone or social media accounts?
What do you do specifically to protect your kids against and teach them about the dangers of pornography that is such a huge problem these days?
How do I monitor my kids’ tech use without seeming overbearing?
How do I teach my kids how to use social media appropriately when it’s constantly changing?
And the questions keep on coming. I don’t really have all the answers, but I’m continuing to share my journey with technology here.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS TAKING OVER
Social media is taking over our children (and often us right along with them), and we must take some action. Together, if we keep this conversation going, we have the power to change the trajectory of the negative impacts of social media, at least in our own families. Hopefully we can help spread it like wildfire that will have the potential to help many.
Now, I want to be clear that I do not think social media is evil. On the contrary it can be enlightening and beautiful. But the caveat there is that it “can be.” Just because something has some good points though, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be weary of it.
So here I go. Let’s start with this picture just to set the mood:
This is not a perfect picture. It’s kind of a weird angle and has crazy shadows. But to me it epitomizes what childhood should look like. Those girls gathered every wheeled form of transportation they could find and rigged them together somehow. They had a ball parading through the neighborhood. This kind of stuff happens all the time.
Sure, creative stuff like this still happens today, but all too often the landscape is changing for kids this age. Roaming the neighborhood, imagination and creativity has been traded in to sit on a couch, often right next to each other, looking at a screen.
Little by little that kind of transition needs to be reversed.
COLLIN KARTCHNER AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Recently, a man named Collin Kartchner came to town to do a seminar all about social media. He’s trying to bring to light all the crazy stuff social media is leaving in it’s wake. Things like suicide, depression, ADHD, addictions, etc. Several blog readers made me aware of him on one of the posts where I’ve talked about social media thoughts before.
It was a little counter-intuitive for me to follow him since I was in the process of severely limiting Instagram. He had so much to say and I was wanting to spend less time on the app.
From Collin Kartchner’s IG Feed
Tech in the classroom not only leads to worse educational outcomes for kids, which I will explain shortly, it can also clinically hurt them. I’ve worked with over a thousand teens in the past 15 years and have observed that students who have been raised on a high tech diet not only appear to struggle more with attention and focus, but also seem to suffer from an adolescent malaise that appears to be a direct byproduct of their digital immersion. Indeed, over two hundred peer-reviewed studies point to screen time correlating to increased ADHD, screen addiction, increased aggression, depression, anxiety and even psychosis.
Let’s look more closely at that claim. ADHD rates have indeed exploded by 50% over the past 10 years. With the CDC indicating that rates continue to rise by 5% per year … This ADHD epidemic is a direct result of children being hyper-stimulated … It creates a vicious and addictive ADHD cycle: The more a child is stimulated, the more that child needs to keep getting stimulated in order to hold their attention.
I have worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict. Kids raised on iPads are more prone to develop addictive types of behaviors on screens. Some kids are failing out of school, losing friends, and even had to be hospitalized.
I skimmed over them the last couple months. There was a LOT of stuff in there that I was baffled by. There are lots of other good articles referred to like this one: Parents Who Raise “Good” Kids Do These 5 Things. That one really is so good.
More Thoughts from Collin Kartchner
He shared other interesting things like this:
School is already hard enough. Why do we make it harder by giving kids a machine that literally makes them digitally stared at all… day… long…
My best friend just got a job working for a pediatrician. She called me yesterday in shock (she used to work him 15 years ago) and said that a typical day back then would be strep throat, stomach ache, flu, flu, tonsillitis. She said her day yesterday was suicide attempt, suicide attempt, cutting, bulimia, anorexia, anxiety, depression. The staff was talking about what has changed in 15 years… Social media and smart phones. Parents need to wake up.
He is a little on the “worst-case scenario” side, but I think in many ways that’s exactly where we need to be in this day and age. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. We need to be aware of what’s happening out there. Perfectly “normal” and seemingly well-adjusted kids are starting to slip down a slippery slope of depression and loneliness. The comparison game is in full force. And it’s not just a wive’s tale. I’ve seen it in my own kids. I’ve seen it in my good, beautiful, on-the-ball friends.
It is real.
COLLIN KARTCHNER SEMINAR
Although this seminar was in the very midst of all the end-of-school madness, I’m so glad a bunch of us were able to make it work. There were three parts to that evening:
It was great to hear Collin Kartchner. He gave a lot of stats, told some good stories, and drew us in.
The keynote speaker was a lady named Katey McPherson, and I thought she was phenomenally in-tune with what’s going on. She shared that a typical American child will have 2,000 photos taken of themselves before age 2. Whoa!
She talked about the Iceberg Illusion and how people only see what we allow them to see and most of the time, that’s just the success. They don’t see our struggles and our efforts that brought us to where we are today.
I loved this thought:
We are meant to build this kind of life together. The kind of life that at the end, is completely dependent upon one another. We are meant not just for thin, virtual connections but for visceral, real connections to one another in this fleeting, temporary, and infinitely beautiful and worthwhile life.
None of that happens when you’re glued to a screen.
INFO ABOUT APPS KIDS USE
This smartsocial.com has lots of useful information about all the main apps kids use:
This chart shows the apps in order of how much “junk” can be associated with them…red being the apps that you should ban like there’s no tomorrow:
She gave some recommendations for helping limit screen time:
- Family Lock
- Circle by Disney
MORE NOTES ABOUT TECHNOLOGY FROM THE SEMINAR
- Help cultivate dignity in kids. This happens when we have frank discussions and let them into our concerns. We have to do things like formulating a “technology contract” together. We should really constantly revise that thing.
- Role-play with kids. This helps them learn to stick up for themselves if someone is bullying them, trying to get them to send inappropriate things, etc.
- Hang on to the relationship. “The best app is YOU.” We need to be present. As parents, we need to be their source for direction and help. Not peers where they’re just trying to seek attention.
- Let them fail in a safe environment. Sometimes we take too much control. We need to let our kids make some of the decisions and learn from the bad ones while they’re under our own roofs.
COLLIN KARTCHNER Q&A
Then there was a panel for Q & A and that was perhaps the very best part. The panel consisted of a couple police officers, a detective who deals with underage sex crimes that stem from pictures sent over the internet, a counselor who deals specifically with depression…
In the middle of that mix was a regular teenager. That teenager was the most helpful. Oh boy! She sure spilled the beans about a lot of things kids do on their phones and had the whole audience (of 600+) gasping at times. This young girl explained all about apps kids use the most, the ones that are really dangerous. She explained things like what a “finsta” Instagram account is to those in the audience who didn’t know. It’s a “fake” Instagram account. My kids have them that I follow and theirs are pretty funny. But I guess lots of secretive, not-so-good things can also happen there. She explained about the “for your eyes only” part of snapchat and some other things that had parents’ eyes bugging out.
I love that one of the police officers told a story about how one of his teenagers “earned” a phone at an earlier age than the others because she demonstrated so much transparency and responsibility and respect. Sometimes we give phones to kids without any preface or preparation which is a disservice.
I truly loved gathering with all these good women when it was over.
SOCIAL MEDIA NIGHT WITH KIDS
The next night Collin Kartchner and his wife spoke to parents and their kids.
Grace had to work, but I figured it would be great to bring Claire. And I will tell you, it was like pulling teeth to get her to go! However, when she realized I wasn’t budging she recruited some friends who were excited to go.
Collin told some interesting stories and pulled all those kids in that auditorium in from the very start.
His wife told the story that Claire said hit her the most. She talked about how, a few years ago, as a successful small Internet business owner, mother to some great kids, and wife to someone she was in love with, she should have been over-the-moon happy. But she was immersed in social media and she found herself in a dark place. She said that her dad had passed away when she was fifteen, an obviously extremely sad situation. But there she was, a grown woman all those years later with everything she had ever wanted. And yet, in many ways, more sad than she was as a young teenager who lost her dad. She explained when she pulled away from social media and comparing herself to others her life changed dramatically. It was a powerful story.
The girls wanted to stay well after the thing was over to meet Mr. Kartchner.
It was a powerful night for me, because it helped Claire realize that it wasn’t just me being crazy about all our discussions focused on the downside of social media. I loved hearing her explain it all to Grace a little later and loved our following discussions.
There is a lot of good info here! So much to think about.
GIVING KIDS WHAT THEY NEED TO SUCCEED
In closing, let’s go back to that teenager on that panel the first night. She told a story about how her mom took her phone away and how she found an old one in a drawer and was able to get around the controls on it. She explained that even when kids get their phones taken away, or apps removed, even with all the best parental controls in effect, kids are smart. If there’s a will there’s a way.
Which solidified my feelings that the most important defense against the “dark side” of social media is to talk.
Talk, talk, talk. Discuss. Be open. And love. I know that seems too simple in many ways, but one thing that really stuck out to me that they said was that “kids want to be seen, heard and loved. With social media they can get all that in 20 seconds.” When they post a sad photo on Instagram, tweeting out a plea for attention, sending something they think will make people love them on snapchat, etc.
Kids Want To Be Seen, Heard, and Loved
Our kids want and need attention any way they can get it, even if it’s negative attention. If they’re getting it from posting crazy, inappropriate, attention-seeking things on technology, oh they’ll get it. From their peers as well as from getting attention from their parents (if they find out).
But if WE as parents can give them more of that…if we can “see” them more, “hear” them more, and show our love through communication and discussions and respect and letting them somehow keep their dignity, how positive that can be! We also need to help them build their own confidence from those four most essential things: they need movement, nature, real human connections, and physical touch. I love that they had a mom and her daughter demonstrate how long an 8-second hug is…and how powerful that kind of connection is.
We stood around the counter in the kitchen, my girls and I that next morning (Dave was out of town) and talked. The room filled up with love as everyone gave their say, and we made a little pact. Different from our formal “contract,” this time it was just a simple pact. I promised to listen more. And to “be there” more. They promised in turn to share more, and be more transparent. We gathered my mom in too (who was in town) and of course the girls wanted Bo to join in, but we made a promise there that morning in the form of a little pact handshake.
So it has to happen right?
Go start the conversation with your kids and make your own social media pact! Check back and tell me how it goes on this post.
TIPS FOR THRIVING IN THE TEENS
I love raising teens, but it’s a lot of work! Here are some of my favorite tips for thriving through the teen years!