2020 was a year of immense challenge and difficulty. But it was also a year of extraordinary resilience and creative problem-solving. One of the problems we solved with great success was the challenge of maintaining connections and relationships with those outside of our ‘bubbles’. Many of us discovered what our children, and especially our teenagers, had known for a long time – technology, and social media in particular, is a great way to stay connected with others and to maintain, and even strengthen, relationships. And, in order to save ourselves and our teenagers from the isolation and boredom of being in the same bubble for weeks on end, we encouraged their social media use and relaxed our pre-COVID online gaming rules. And when lockdown ended, many of us remained lenient because we recognised that our teens were already coping with lots of stress and disappointment and that having instant access to their friends for moral support, or blowing off a bit of steam by heckling fellow gamers could, perhaps, be a good thing.
Will they ever actually talk to us again, instead of just sending a DM asking what’s for dinner? But now the summer holidays are here and it’s time to get out and about. And we’re starting to worry about our teenagers’ ability to connect with others and build relationships in the offline world. Have we been too lenient with their gaming and their social media use? Will they ever emerge from their dark, vampire-like gaming caves to hang out with the rest of the family? Will they ever actually talk to us again, instead of just sending a DM asking what’s for dinner?
If this is a concern for you, here are some tips that may be helpful to encourage your teenager to put their device down and to dabble in some face-to-face interactions.