Its exam times and anxiety is already a keen visitor in most homes. Throw in social media and our tweens and teens feel like they might pop!
Here are some TIPS AND CONVERSATION STARTERS to help allay some of the stress and anxiety that comes from screens during this time:
Don’t ban access – Assure your teen that the chat about the phone is not going to result in you taking it away. They want to stay connected during exams. Allow for this while helping them to manage some of the extra anxiety they are feeling right now.
What makes you feel good about yourself? – Ask your teen what makes them feel best about themselves when they scrolling – which app, which sites, which Youtube videos. It might be a Youtuber they relate to, it might be a cooking site, it might be a Netflix series. Suggest they focus JUST on that for exam time.
Turn off notifications – You might also want to suggest that they disable notifications for all apps or at least for the apps they aren’t focusing on for the exam period. This is a great active step to take in minimising distractions from the phone during study time.
What or who makes you feel bad about yourself? – Ask them what or who can make them feel ‘less than’. Usually this is a person on Instagram because of how they compare their lives to his or hers. Suggest lowering the visibility (not blocking) that person’s posts just for exams by temporarily removing them from their feed (your teen will know how to do this)!
Which app makes you feel anxious? – Sometime an app in and of itself makes us feel anxious or inadequate. Snapchat always makes it look like everyone is having fun. It might be a fun challenge to see if the two of you (yes – you and your teen) decide together to halve the time spent on an anxiety-provoking app (note we are not suggesting either of you go cold turkey). Make it fun. Not hard and demanding. All you want is for them to see how just reducing the time spent goes a long way to feeling a little more in control.
Are you a passive user or active contributor on social? Help them to avoid being a passive user of social networking sites. This means explaining that looking over other people’s posts without sharing anything is harmful because we begin to think we have nothing to offer. Uploading a selfie might not be the answer. It might a funny meme; a crazy exam tip; how to make iced coffee – anything that allows them to feel that they are contributing.
Who is a person who makes you feel good online? – Help your teen to name one person they can rely on in their social media world to always have their back, pop a cool comment etc. Suggest they throw a pic that person’s way.
What about stepping up for others online? – Suggest they step up for others and make a few lovely comments about others too – this makes them feel like they are givers and not always just waiting for kindness to land on their profile. Not only does it give your teen a sense that they have something to offer, and takes the focus off their own anxious feelings.
Remember exam time is NOT the time to do battle over phones. Set your boundaries around exams and social media use BEFORE exams start. Focus on your connection not on hours spent or results obtained.
Make their favourite meals, put a treat on a pillow, allow for a messy room. Be kind to each other.
Trust the process and let your teen step up.
Good luck out there!
Sarah and Pam