USAG YONGSAN - Adolescent Support and Counseling Services (ASACS) presented "The Social Lives of Networked Teens" June 26 at Seoul American High School. The event invited parents in the Area II community to listen to Lisa Roethling, a licensed professional counselor, addictions therapist, and clinical director of ASACS-Worldwide, discuss the challenges of raising teenagers in a social media-driven world.
The lecture mainly talked about how teenagers behave on Social Network Services, and how parents can influence behaviors in effective and constructive ways.
"The goal of this workshop is for parents to take a closer look at adolescent teen social media behaviors. Information presented focused on how to communicate with your teen about a healthy online presence as well as setting boundaries with internet access," said Roethling.
Today's teens exhibit different behaviors. They no longer hang out with friends in the real world, making face-to-face contact. They live in the world of the Internet and SNS because that is where all of their friends live. They communicate through a variety of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Today's teenagers are more interested in mass popularity than money or even family. They want their posts to be liked by other people to include people they do not know. They like to show off what they do, eat or wear on social media.
Roethling said teenagers are literally addicted to SNS. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014 and 2015, 92 percent of teens access the Internet daily, and nearly a quarter of them are on the Internet almost constantly. However, teenagers are also more burned out and prone to depression because of SNS. A report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom suggests that Instagram is the worst social media network for young people's (aged 14-24) mental health. They simply cannot manage the emotions of seeing an endless stream of pictures of friends showing off because of the "compare and despair" attitude prevalent among many teens.
There are also more young people on social network sites than older people. Those born between 1980 and 2000, also known as Generation Y, tend to rely on social networks for news. The problem is that SNS presents narrow facets of the world while also reinforcing passive attitudes, she said.
Roethling also talked about the impact of social media on brain functions with specific regard to three factors: short and long-term planning, shortened attention span, and loss of impulse control. There is also compelling evidence that much of a teenager's cognitive ability deteriorates with excessive exposure to technology. Kathy Koch, an educational psychology expert, suggests in her book, "Screens and teens: connecting with our kids in a wireless world," that the average teen identifies a panda among other dolls in 20-30 seconds, compared to 12-15 seconds eight years ago. The study revealed differences in concentration ability compared to just a decade ago.
Roethling pointed out that teens' overexposure to SNS is much more serious in military communities.
"Third Culture Kids or kids growing up in military communities have a need for staying connected as they are more often subject to moves and transitioning in and out of communities," Roethling said.
Roethling provided a list of rules to help parents raise healthy teenagers in such a highly tech-reliant era.
1. Get Passwords. Parents need to check their kids' electronic device usage and watch how they behave on SNS. If kids try to hide something from their parents, then they must have done something wrong.
2. Set clear parameters for checking in with teens and stick to it. This helps to build trust. Do check on a regular basis.
3. Enforce that social media is a privilege to be earned and NOT a "right." Sometimes teens have misconceptions that they own their "own" cell phone, forgetting that their parents bought it for them. If teenagers misbehave on SNS, parents have a right to take their phone away, and teens should be aware of this and act responsibly.
4. Get your own account on any social medium they are using. Friending and following is mandatory. This gives parents a way to monitor their teens' behavior transparently.
5. Use missteps as opportunities to build communication and empathy.
6. Teach through empathetic responses and natural and logical consequences. Parents need to teach kids how to nurture emotional relationships in today's SNS world. Giving empathetic responses to kids will help children understand the emotional value of human relationships. Speaking logically and naturally will help children recognize their own problems.
7. Ease up on restrictions and scrutiny as responsibility is proven and a pattern of healthy online activity is demonstrated.
To reinforce the rules above, she suggested parents have a family meeting.
"It's important to have a family meeting on a regular basis. Through it, parents and their kids can be emotionally connected to each other. Parents should ask their children questions about their internet usage," said Roethling. "Please establish trust, rules and expectations. Parents should keep their place in the center when it comes to matters involving their children. Be reasonable and discuss issues with your children."
She recommended several questions parents should ask their children:
1. Where do you spend most of your time online?
2. What's your favorite app right now?
3. Who do you chat with the most?
4. What does it take for you to friend someone on Instagram or Facebook?
5. Why do you hide your electronics when I come in the room?
6. When will you be accepting my friend requests?
7. Is there anything you want to tell me before I look at your phone?
She also says it is important to set limits with usage, depending on when and where. It's critical for teens not to be occupied with their cell phones before bedtime. Designating where they can use electronic devices will help them be accountable for what they are doing, considering how easy it is to hide their footprints in the digital age.
She also talked about the importance of rewarding children for good SNS behavior.
"It's always important to catch kids doing something right. If your teens abide by your standards, then reward them verbally, emotionally or with more trust," said Roethling.
Roethling's presentation provided parents practical ways to communicate with teenagers about their SNS usage.
"Now I know how to take care of my son's SNS use. I will stay connected emotionally with him and teach him the value of empathy," said Guadalupc Villarrcal, the mother of a sixteen-year-old son.
"Remember, as a parent, it's important to stay up to date on recent trends relating to online behaviors, and spend time getting to know your teens' online identity," said Roethling.