Parents of Generation Z kids, do you know how to protect your child’s wellbeing when it comes to social media and electronics?
Electronic devices play a major role in modern society, touching just about every aspect of our lives and increasing their reach every day. Generation Z, those born between 1997-2012, is unique in that they are the first generation to grow up completely surrounded by technology as a standard way of life with no experience any other way.
The iPhone launched in 2007, when the oldest Gen Zers were 10. By the time they were in their teens, the primary means by which young Americans connected with the web was through mobile devices, WiFi and high-bandwidth cellular service. Social media, constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment and communication are innovations Millennials adapted to as they came of age. For those born after 1996, these are largely assumed. – Pew Research
While electronics such as smartphones are the go-to entertainment and news source for people of all ages, devices and social media are particularly entrancing for children.
According to a report by Common Sense Media, “teens spend more than seven hours on screens for entertainment a day, an amount of time does not include for school work. Tweens — ages 8 to 12 — are not far behind, at four hours and 44 minutes daily.”
The implications of growing up in an “always-on” technological environment are only now coming into focus. Recent research has shown dramatic shifts in youth behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyles – both positive and concerning – for those who came of age in this era.
This is one significant reason why your Generation Z children tend to be so invested in their cell phones and social media. But like all children, they are impressionable so they tend to model the behavior they see from their parents.
Are you constantly scrolling on your phone during downtime or a free minute? Do you use electronic devices as “babysitters” to keep your children occupied? When in front of your child, try to avoid displaying the kind of behavior you would like to discourage them from exhibiting. Otherwise, kids see this and begin to recognize unacceptable behavior as acceptable and tend to implement it into their own.
Did you know…
► Generation Z is the most at-risk generation for mental illness.
► The suicide rate for people aged 10 to 24 has increased by 56% between 2007 and 2017.
► Social media, especially among this generation, can contribute to increased depression.
Statistically, Generation Z is more likely to be on social media than not, and studies have revealed there is a link between social media and poor mental and emotional health.
This is why you must remain vigilant as social media use affects your child’s development. In fact, studies have shown there are neuro-cognitive changes in the frontal lobe of children using social media as it tends to meet instant gratification needs over delayed.
How do you know if social media and electronics are affecting your children specifically?
Some typical behavior to be cognizant of include the child’s increasing desire for more time on devices, increasing distress when access is removed, decreasing desire to interact with others, and decreasing want to engage in imaginative play.
If your child seems as though they may be going down this path, it’s important for you to address it as soon as possible. When the signs are there but your children will not talk with you you can express concern and interest in by talking with them and communicate rules. While tempers can flair, don’t remove devices during a fight — be proactive. Also, set limitations. Many of today’s smartphones have features or apps that allow parents to specify certain times of the day or amounts of time a child is allowed to use the device and also allow you to monitor what is being utilized during that time.
The majority of young people seem to be getting smartphones much earlier as well. By age 11, 53% of kids have their own smartphone, and by age 12, 69% of them do — an increase from 41% in 2015. – Pew Research
Generation Z is growing up surrounded by technology and friends whose parents have varying parenting styles and opinions. Development during these critical years depends on parents providing an environment that sustains growth — something electronic devices can significantly stunt if not used properly and with supervision.
No matter what age your child gets a smartphone, the key is moderation, diversity, and parents taking an interest.
Make sure to implement a varied mix of playtime such as creative play (arts, crafts, imagination), socializing outdoors, alone time (reading, drawing, coding), family time (cooking, tv programs, board games), and electronic time (gaming and social media).
The time we all spend on our digital devices will continue to increase and as technology continues to take on a larger role in our lives, it begs the question of whether we are all becoming connected to the world far sooner than we should be and whether we, as a society, need to scale back on how early our kids jump into the deep end.
We live in a technology-driven world that utilizes advanced gadgets for almost everything we do. But at what point does connecting children to the go-go lifestyle of modern society begin to rob them of their childhood, imagination, and the ability to learn to live without depending on those devices? There’s no easy answer, so it is up to parents to decide what is right for them and their children. It’s important for parents to be proactive and protect the mental health of their children. Focus on providing a strong childhood for your kids that is not entirely dependent on smart devices for happiness.
Regardless of when a parent gets their child a smartphone or anything else for that matter, it’s important to instill a sense of responsibility from the get-go. You should sit down with your child and teach him or her how to responsibly use the device.
A few more tips for parents considering giving the green light:
What’s The Result for your child? Will he or she having a device ultimately help or hurt their development? Are they emotionally mature enough to handle owning one? What do they want it for and what will their primary uses of it be?
Delay, Delay, Delay giving them a smartphone as long as you can. Once they become connected to the world, there’s almost no turning back. Think of it this way — If you could go back to your childhood and disconnect from technology for a little while, would you?
Use The Parental Controls that your wireless carrier and the device offers, keeping the ultimate power in your hands.
Don’t Give Them Everything right off the bat. Limit their texting and minutes. Don’t include internet access. Don’t get the most expensive model. This allows you the ability to gradually reward your child with more priveledges as they prove themselves to be responsible. Set Rules that your child must follow in order to continue having the phone. Set boundaries of when they can and can’t use the device. For instance, no using it at the dinner table, no texting while driving, and no ignoring others.
For more information, watch the WVUE-TV Fox 8 interview with Maison Vie’s Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Susan Harrington below as she shares what parents need to know to help keep Generation Z children happy and healthy when it comes to social media and electronics. You can also contact us to discuss any questions, concerns, or needs you may have by clicking here.