“You’re always on your phone”
A statement used in my household much too frequently growing up. As a member of Gen Z, we grew up in a sort of transitionary period when it came to technology. Yes, when I was in elementary school I was still playing outside every day with my brother forming imaginary worlds with the woods behind our house. However, once I hit middle school, my first phone was an iPhone 4. I was given a phone because I was finally taking a bus to school and so I could reach them God forbid something happened. There were many rules put into place with this phone I was given. I was not allowed to have it in my room at night when I went to sleep, phones were not allowed at the dinner table or any kind of family time. Some kids I went to school with were beginning to get phones as early as 5th grade. At restaurants, while my peers were being handed iPads, I was playing iSpy with my family or coloring on the paper tablecloths. Instead of distracting us, my parents engaged us.
When my parents deemed I was the appropriate age, in their eyes, to receive my own technology it opened up a whole new world for me. This new access to technology opened up the world of ✨social media✨. Terrifying, I know. Which is why to this day I am still very thankful for all of the rules my parents put into place for when I did get social media. When I first got a phone I was only allowed to get a private instagram account. My profile picture could not be my face nor could my name be in my username. All of this was to protect me at such a young age. As the years went on I was not allowed to get any other form of social media without asking first so my parents could check if it was safe for me. Although I had received a lot of comments from friends saying how all of these rules are ridiculous I believe it taught me how to be a smart social media user.
Even though being exposed to social media at a young age could be scary to some, it actually ended up opening a lot of doors for me. I believe this is extremely important to keep in the back of one’s mind when implicating rules for social media use. Yes, rules and being careful and safe are extremely important, however if you take it away completely, you could be removing someone’s creative outlet. As I got older, I was able to utilize technology and social media to create a platform. I was able to do this through the app Tiktok. I know there is an extremely negative light shed over this app, and for good reason. However, when used with wisdom, I’ve found so much good can be found on social media.
And then, Kpop!
When I was a freshman in college I began to try new things and find new interests — and I found one where I felt at home. I found the genre of music known as Kpop! I was so excited to start my journey as a fan and I just loved to talk about it, however, I did not have any friends who shared this same interest at the time, so it was quite isolating. The only people who I could talk to about it were: A. my boyfriend (who really did not care for it he was just being supportive) and, B. my mom (who is amazing and I love her). So, since I did not have any friends to talk about it with, I turned to social media. I began posting funny videos about the bands that I liked and soon, my feed was flooded with what I found interesting. Because of my posts I gained a massive influx of followers over those two years. I was also able to make new internet friends because of this. We were able to talk together about our shared interests and what once felt lonely wasn’t so anymore. Now my account has about 15 and a half thousand followers, all of which I am so grateful for. There is always the issue of this becoming too consuming. It can be demanding, feeling the need to provide content for people and it can seem like a priority. However, to combat this, I make sure to take frequent breaks from the app. Distancing myself and focusing on more important things helps me to reevaluate my priorities. And if I can use that platform to make someone else feel a little less lonely or have a laugh because of my page, I think that’s a win.
If an individual grew up in a time with no social media, it can be difficult navigating a world that is now social media dominant.
There are a few assumptions that older generations make about Gen Z:
- That social media is all we do. That’s not true.
- That social media is hurting us. Well, yes, to some extent it is, HOWEVER, it’s consuming and harming the older generations, too. It also does not ONLY hurt us. Social media is like a fire, when it is used safely it can provide light and warmth. When not used safely, we can get burned. There are beautiful things that people in Gen Z are doing through social media for themselves and others. It is also important to understand that we were young and growing while this new technology was being introduced. So, we will be more accustomed to it and therefore use it more. Rules surrounding technology and social media are just as important as acknowledging the good side of it.
Some Quick Suggestions to Parents From a Gen Z
- ENGAGE ENGAGE ENGAGE
Your kid wants you to take interest in what they have interest in. And if their interest is on social media, ask about it!!! Become a part of it. It means the absolute world to us to see you listen and care about what makes us the happiest.
- Communicate rules!
I won’t lie, I didn’t perfectly accept my parents’ rules when I was young. It was hard, there were disagreements. I know now what my parents were trying to accomplish with their rules. However, at the time I was a little in the dark. If you are going to implement rules with the phone, make sure to tell your child exactly why you are doing so. If you give them a clear reason why you are restricting their phone use, you can come to a mutual understanding.
- Choose your words wisely
Telling your child every time to “get off your phone” or “you’re always on your phone” or blaming the child’s behavior on the phone can be extremely taxing on a child. It can feel like they are doing something wrong in that moment, when in reality they aren’t doing anything inherently wrong. Just changing slightly what you say can have a more positive impact. Some examples of what to say could be:
- “Why don’t we take a break for a little bit?”
- “Do you want to help me with this?”, “Come with me. Let’s go…”; etc. (Help them find something else to do with you. Try to include and engage them in something else.)
I know I am not a parent; however, I believe as a young adult who grew up in a tech-heavy society I can offer some insight into how your children might want to be treated when it comes to tech.
Some Quick Suggestions to Teens From a Fellow Digital Native
- Try to be understanding of generations before you and their relationship with technology.
This will help form a mutual understanding of where they are coming from with certain rules/perspectives. They grew up in a different world. Engage your parents in helping them understand what you enjoy about it, but hear the wisdom they might have to share from their different experience, too.
- Do not be ashamed if your passions and interests are social media.
It’s not shameful to take joy in expressing positive things on social media and engaging others in this way.
- Remember to take breaks.
As fun as social media can be, it can be extremely taxing. Keep your priorities straight and true. Frequent breaks can help with an unhealthy attachment to it. And make sure you’re expressing yourself and engaging others outside of social media, too!
Tacy Andrews has been at Park Church since its beginning (back when it was called Outreach Red Bank, or ORB for short). She used to crash the young adult meetings in the basement of the Trinity Church in Red Bank. She was always excited to see the high school and college kids who would attend. She has served in many places around the church, serving in the worship band, check-in for Park Kids, and serving communion. Right now she is a second semester junior at Ramapo College of New Jersey studying English and Literary Studies with a track for Secondary Education. Tacy is also on the dance team as a Technique Leader. Tacy is honored to be a part of Tech-Wise and was a part of our early conversations about this initiative last summer. To read Tacy’s mom’s post about, check out How We Raised Our First-Generation Phone Kids.
Mark your calendars and register today for our next Tech-Wise event, our Panel Discussion featuring professionals in technology, education (including Tacy’s mom), & mental health (and Tacy’s big brother, Sammy speaking for Gen Z). April 28th from 6:30-8:30 pm.
Childcare will be available through 5th grade and children/youth in 6th grade and up are encouraged to attend. Please register using the button below. Registration is totally free! So is the childcare! We especially encourage registration for those utilizing childcare so we can have your child’s nametag prepared for them and we can ensure proper childcare volunteer coverage.