Teaching teenagers about love and respect in a digital age presents its own challenges. Is it okay for someone your teen has never met, to ask them out on a date via WhatsApp, and ask your teen to meet him at the venue using an Uber?
Parents of teenagers are struggling with how to deal with their children’s use of social media. Parenting has changed, especially in the digital age, with the introduction of new apps almost every year, parents even tech-savvy parents, find it hard to keep up. It has been a challenge to most parents and some have described it as impossible because they don’t understand social media.
However teaching children to love and respect in a digital age is not a technological issue – far from it. It is an issue of character and behaviour. We must first understand that social media and all its digital neighbours are communication tools. What people or in this case teenagers use these tools to communicate is entirely dependent on their personal values, understanding, exposure and upbringing.
From the teenage years, kids begin to see themselves as adults or rather pseudo-adults – and therefore challenge getting direct advice from parents. However, as parents, we still have the responsibility to raise them right and guide them through the teenage years. If you are dealing with secrecy, disrespectful actions and comments, understanding where they are coming from will help you identify the root problem and develop appropriate strategies to turn your teen around. As your teenager starts to explore relationships, having a solid understanding of love will help her recognise it later.
Communication is at the heart of relationships and interaction, children need to first understand the importance of respectful and appropriate behaviour before dealing with how to interact face to face and in the digital space.
WHAT IS RESPECT
Right from childhood, your teenager needs to understand that respecting their parents is the first step to understanding respect. Some teenagers are under the impression that respect means you have to be nice to someone at all times or never say no. Others think that respect means you have to obey any adult who gives you an order. Both of these definitions are incorrect. Respect is simply an attitude of caring and showing consideration towards another person. It means that you listen when other people speak and treat their opinions with dignity and fairness. Respect and fear are not the same things.
If they ever feel abused or face inappropriate interaction online, they should not be fearful or hesitant to share and speak.
We already know children learn a lot from watching us. That is why it is necessary for parents to always model good behaviours and the right attitude. If we keep telling teenagers to respect adults but don’t respect the people around us, your teenager isn’t going to listen to you. Most importantly, show respect to your teenager. If she comes to you with a problem or issue, genuinely listen to her concerns and come up with solutions together or where necessary offer advice. If a child feels listened to and feels that their opinions are respected, then it is easier for them to show respect to others – whether in person or online.
LOVE STARTS FROM HOME
Children who are raised in a home with love and respect are less likely to engage in high-risk or destructive behaviours. Teenagers first understanding of love does start from the examples around them. Children raised with a strong sense of identity and clear values are more resilient; and better able to resist negative pressure. They are also able to recognize true love in the future. Peer pressure is not a matter of if, but of when. If you want your teenager to exhibit your values; and withstand negative peer pressure, then focus on creating clear communication lines and a home where they understand what true love and respect look like.
SELF WORTH IS NOT LIKES & SHARES
Today’s self-esteem is falsely rooted in the number of likes, shares and comments of our latest selfies or post. The praise of others is a fickle thing upon which to measure our worth. If teenagers get caught up in this ever-changing target or measure of their self-worth it is negative and unhealthy. It often leads to making poor decisions which could have long-term negative effects. Teenagers love to get likes on social media.; but it is very critical that they understand that their self-worth is not tied to social media.
Remember they learn from their parents so don’t place undue importance on likes and shares.
Teenagers are mostly impulsive and as such are very prone to sharing regrettable content via text or social media. According to Understanding Teenagers, teaching teens to think first before acting requires honest conversations, intentional tutoring, and frequent reminding. The world is connected and what teens share and do online today can be captured forever.
Teaching teens how to control their impulsive desires is a normal part of raising teenagers. It is not an issue of technology, but of growing up in general. Parents need to be intentional and equip teenagers on how to make sensible decisions in the heat of the moment. This doesn’t change whether this moment is online or in the physical world.
Now that you have some tips on teens and social media, talk to them about what they are doing online. The digital age is more confusing to your teen that it is for you, they need your help to navigate this period.
Do you have a teenager? Are you worried about their social media use? Share your concerns or comments with us.