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teens and sleep

Don’t let your phone steal your sleep

Is your teen’s phone stealing her sleep? What about you? How is your sleep hygiene?

 

Doctors and sleep specialists say that our nighttime  screen habits can be a culprit in disrupting sleep. The light our screens give off (esp. if we are close to them) may be suppressing melatonin (a hormone responsible for controlling your sleep and wake cycle). Also, checking our texts and social updates and the worst…work email…That’s going to keep your mind active and stresseing.

Sleep is critical to our physical and mental well-being. So turn it off. Unplug. Go on Airplane mode.

As with any tech habit, modeling the behaviors you want to see your kids adopt is crucial.

Are you going to sleep at a time that feels good for you and your body? Do you check your phone right before going to bed? Where do your phones stay at night? If your children climb into your bed for snuggles on a Sunday morning, are they climbing over a web of chargers and wires?

 

 

Here are some ideas to help you and your family put sleep first and build a healthy sleep routine:

  • Where do devices live?If kids say they need phones to wake them up, get them a cheap, simple alarm clocks.
  • The best place for devices to go to sleep overnight is outside of bedrooms. Consider a charging station in the kitchen or your home office.
  • For young adults in dorms, they aren’t going to charge “downstairs” so…Ieast encourage them to set phones on airplane or night mode to ensure no notifications dinging in the middle of the night.
  • Unplug 60-90 minutes before bed, figure out what’s realistic for your family, and consider your kids’ age.
  • Recreational screentime on a device across the room like the TV is better before bed than a handheld device that’s close to your eyes. If you’re watching TV before bed, a fun show will be less stressful than scrolling social media or checking grades!Set an example for your family:
    • Set up regular waking and sleeping schedules.
    • Create a relaxing habit before bed — read or play board games.
    • Set the tone in your home with some soothing music or scents like lavender.
    • Decide device shut-off times for all family members — and remember to model this first!
    • Choose where to keep devices during sleep — in your bedroom on airplane mode if you don’t have a landline? In the kitchen at your charging station?Notice the first thing you do on your device when you get up in the morning:
      • Do you silence your alarm and then go straight to social media?
      • Do you start checking emails and looking at your calendar?
      • What could you try instead to help you ease into your day? Perhaps it’s an inspiring podcast or uplifting playlist

Sleep routines will likely change throughout the year. Before vacations, days off school, and weekends, decide how you’ll continue to prioritize sleep — helping you set yourself up for an energizing day — every day.

Want to learn more about teens and sleep? Check out Lisa Lewis’s excellent new book The Sleep Deprived Teen.

 

Why are my friends hanging out without me?

How to Deal with Feeling Left Out (Instagram Edition)

I recently worked with a great group of kids who shared their strategies for handling feeling left out.

I like to ask kids what they can do WHEN this happens. Not IF. Because it will happen to everyone, and I want to normalize that for kids who are new to social media. Seeing things that might make you feel bad or left out is the “price of the ticket” on social media…

parenting expert

Here are some ideas the kids shared:
1. Watch some Netflix
2. Eat some ice cream
3. Call some other friends to invite them over
4. Don’t watch! Put away phone.
5.Hang out with parents or siblings.
6. Excercise.

Don’t keep looking. Definitely do NOT text those folks right now to demand to know why they didn’t include you. Take care of yourself!

Back when we were kids and we were left out, we didn’t have social media to remind us. But your resilience and perspective helped you get through those experiences. You can share that wisdom and support with your child now.

When you have teenagers, hanging out with parents might well be a B-plan. In most relationships, that wouldn’t be healthy. I wouldn’t want to be my husband’s B-plan for Saturday night. But when you have a teenager, a movie night with parents could be a fallback. Be casual. Let them pick the movie.

Telling kids a story about a time you felt left out will help create more empathy and trust in your relationship. But I wouldn’t do it right at the moment when they are upset. Let it be about them. If at all possible, see if you can get them to unplug.

Watching peers post more is NOT going to help.

Overall, we want to help kids notice when something on their devices is making them feel bad and make decisions accordingly.

See this and share it as an Instagram post here.

You want to be running your devices, not letting them run you!

Worried that Screens Will Eat Your Summer Vacation?

When we see our kids using screens more than we’d like, it’s easy to jump to conclusions or assume the worst. But these days, kids can use devices for almost everything, so what might look like mindless scrolling or binge-watching could actually be a Youtube video about pollinators, a group chat with their cousins planning to meet up, or designing a roller coaster track using basic physics.

As we put together our plans for summer screentime, let’s remember that not all screentime is created equal.

Connecting with friends and family

Our kids want and need to stay in touch with friends when school is out for the summer. Tech-based communication like Zoom, Google Meet, Facetime, and Whatsapp makes staying in touch with far flung family members easier, too.

Passive use vs. Interactive use

Is your kid interacting and engaging with apps and tools they use – building worlds, playing games, designing characters? Or is it passive – simply scrolling, “liking,” or watching?

Creating vs. Consuming

Is this screen time that encourages creation – editing videos, recording songs, writing a play, drawing a comic? Or are they just consuming other people’s content?

Learning new things

Sometimes passive consumption is educational – TikTok has become a surprisingly educational platform! If your kid is currently fascinated by a specific topic, screen time can be a great educational opportunity. Do check in with them about what they are learning and have them show you the videos and channels they are watching.

Reduce screen use conflict by scheduling “Pro-tech Days”

Our kids are less likely to argue about screen use if they know what to expect.

If they know they’ve got a week of less-restricted screen use coming at the end of the month, they probably won’t spend quite as much time begging to turn on the video game console at the beginning of the month.

So take out the calendar and look at the rest of the summer. Are there any sections of time that really lend themselves to unrestricted or less restricted screen use?

If you’re working from home this summer, is there a week when you’ll need uninterrupted time for a big project? Giving your child more screen time that week will make things much easier for you. Or maybe your family has a show that you love that you’ll miss when you travel and you can plan to watch all your missed episodes the weekend after you get back. Promising not to watch a shared show while your child is in overnight camp will also earn you some goodwill.

Or after a few weeks of outdoor-only, screen-free day camp, your kid may enjoy some less-restricted access to a day of Roblox.

Once you’ve identified some days that make sense, schedule these “Pro-tech Days” and make sure your kid knows when they are. Keeping your kids involved and informed will dramatically cut down on the conflict.

Schedule in “Unplugged Days” too

When you’re consulting your calendar for those “Pro-tech Days,” schedule in some Unplugged Days, too. We can all make these screen-free days more appealing to our kids by planning some truly enjoyable unplugged activities and involving them in that planning process.

Maybe don’t expect your teenage son to spend one of his Unplugged Days staring at impressionist landscape paintings at the museum with you. Unless you know that’s his jam. If you are in Chicago, maybe this cool Nick Cave show at the MCA. would be fun. Or some live music in the park. Or a trip to a beach with the super soakers and some friends.

Alongside your kid, brainstorm ways to spend these Unplugged Days that won’t feel deprivational or boring. 1000 Hours Outside is one of my favorite resources for screen-free ideas.

Download apps that encourage more creative screen time

Counterintuitive as it sounds, we can encourage more creative screen use by downloading more apps. If your kid is mostly using screens for passive consumption, think about their hobbies and interests and try to help them find interactive, creative apps that support those interests.

Apps, games, and software for kids who are interested in music
TuneTrain
GarageBand
Virtual Drumming

Apps, games, and software for kids who are interested in science
Nasa App
Sky View App
Weather App

Apps, games, and software for kids who are interested in art and design
Drawing Pad
Fashion Design Sketches
Skyscraper App

You can also work on taking things in the the other direction–moving from on screen to off. If your tween or teen is watching cooking shows, they can make brunch and snacks! Or dinner every Thursday.

If your kid is watching home organizing TikTok videos (why, oh why won’t my kid watch those?) Encourage them to organize the bathroom. Or pick a project they are excited about. They can always make a stop motion animation or take before and after pictures if that makes it more fun!

“What are the fun summer things we need to make sure we do this year?”

Include kids in the planning process:

In general: plan and be intentional – it’ll take a bit of effort, but it’ll make summer more fun for EVERYONE.

Is there a place you’ve heard about that you want to visit?

Are there friends you want to go camping with?

Do you want to learn a new skill?

 Do you want to try a first sleepover with friends or grandparents without the pressures of the school year?

Can teens with a learner’s permit or a new license help with driving on a family road trip?

Find ways to access “novelty” outside of your phone

Finally, we can look for way to find novely offline. For the last 2.5 years, most of us have found novelty almost exclusively through our screens – new Netflix shows, new phone games, new TikTok accounts to follow. And for many of us, the sense of novelty has kept us going through this long, monotonous pandemic.

But as things open back up and we start to rebalance our lives and venture into the world, we can find novelty in a new playground, a new ice-cream flavor, or a new skill. I just took a rowing class. In a real boat. Rowing is hard. It turns out, there is a LOT of upper body strength involved…starting with carrying the boat down to the river. But it was new and exciting, and even though I am still sore…I also feel rejuvenated by having tried something new. If you try something new this summer, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Photo credit: pexels-jessica-lewis-creative-4200824 

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Feels Like Groundhog Day. Again.

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I don’t know about you, but I am having a Groundhog Day kind of feeling. Our family watched the movie again over winter break. A winter break where we canceled almost as many plans as we made.

We had hoped to go to Spain but then decided we didn’t want to risk travel bans, so we planned an exciting trip to…New York City. COVID numbers were low and we haven’t been there in way too long.

As the date grew closer, even our family and friends in New York who really wanted to see us suggested that it might be better to wait. In the end, we went to nearby Morton Arboretum and walked among the winter trees and epic sculptures, appreciating the squirrels. We went to the library and stocked up on graphic novels and DVDs. We hiked in the forest preserve. We played Catan and Risk. And we watched a LOT of movies. Including some classics. Like His Girl Friday, which we all enjoyed. And of course, Groundhog Day.

Do you remember the movie? Sometimes, I feel like I am stepping off the curb into icy slush, again and again. If your family hasn’t seen Groundhog Day, add it to your “Omicron/Staying Home Again” movie queue…

Seriously, whether you are staying home AGAIN, or you never stopped, this is starting to feel like a big chunk of our lives and our kids’ lives. If you are having a lot of feelings about that, I’m right here with you.

We’ve been to one in-person Bar Mitzvah during this pandemic and I almost cried watching the (masked, of course) kids doing the limbo and dancing to the live Klezmer band. It felt so right and so sweet. Shortly after that, all the upcoming planned B-Mitzvah celebrations moved back to zoom. The kids are resilient. A zoom B-Mitzvah can be a beautiful thing. But I still feel sad and disappointed for these families that planned so much, for the young people who have worked so hard, and for all of these kids sitting through week after week of two-hour zooms instead of joyful, in-person celebrations. This is really, really hard.

So, I’m sharing a couple of resources that I hope can help a little, as well as my solidarity. You are not alone.

Support for Getting Through This Time

My friend Phyllis Fagell has some great tips for 5 ways adults can boost kids’ well-being — and their own— as schools return from break in a Covid surge this week. I love that she reminds us that self-care is NOT selfish, it actually helps us to be better parents and educators.

She also reminds us “Don’t be afraid to cope out loud. Let your child hear you stay hopeful even if the first thing you try is ineffective.”

Feeling like you can’t stop scrolling the news right now? Having a hard time watching other people’s vacations after canceling your own (that was me.) I spoke with the Wall Street Journal about how to unhook from your phone, especially if you are doomscrolling or if social media is taking you away from things you really want to do. Like engaging with your family. Or reading a good book.

Can’t get to WSJ because of the paywall? I’ve summarized my advice on Instagram. My favorite tip is silencing ALL the bings and tings. I really don’t need a jarring ping to let me know the moment a text comes in.

And if you are back in remote school like we are, here are my remote school survival tips in case you took them off your fridge.

Favorite tip: Post a handy cheat sheet of all the logins and passwords by the student’s work station and in the photos on parents’ phones.

What else is helping us get through this time? Nature. I am teaching myself to cross country ski. Since I learned from Youtube, I’m not that good. Yet. But it is OK. When I was interviewing kids and teens for Screenwise, kids told me that they learn a lot of new skills from Youtube. Giving it a try as a middle-aged learner has been an adventure.

Art is also getting me through. Our very own art. Even though we moved this summer, we hadn’t gotten around to hanging our art yet. We have a LOT of art and it was all sitting in boxes. Hanging the art made space for a remote school “office” for our 7th grader, AND it brought our old friends back into our lives. We spent the last two weeks framing and arranging old and new artwork and it feels so good to see our favorite pieces on the walls again. This street art bird (below the PS) went up in my office and is keeping an eye on me as I write my new book on Growing Up in Public.

Finally, our gratitude is helping. It can be hard to tune into that channel right now. But today I drove my kid to school in 10 degree weather. Volunteers and staff were waiting outside to administer drive-through COVID tests to see if our district can return to in-person learning. These folks are outside in the frigid wind from 7am to 3pm today, trying to make it safer for the kids to go back to school. We could not thank them enough.

I hope you and your family are staying safe, even with the curveball of this latest wave of the pandemic.

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Kids are Growing Up in Public and Parents are Worried

Unless you were a child celebrity, your kid probably has far less privacy than you did. From first time your child plays a game on a public server, to their first email account, first phone, first social media account, to taking over managing their own medical and academic records at 18, growing up is now full of digital milestones that parents are often surprised by and ill-equipped to mentor their children through.  I call this the digital coming of age. The recent documentary, The Social Dilemma, stoked parents’ worries about this digital coming of age.

Parents ask me questions about privacy settings, monitoring apps, and tracking their kids. Parents want the lowdown on the impact of their teenager’s digital profile on their college admissions prospects. They worry their kid’s friends will take a picture or video of them doing something stupid and share it widely, shaming their child and foreclosing future opportunities.  I  am writing a new book, GROWING UP IN PUBLIC, to help parents navigate this terrain.  I am deep into my research and writing and would love to hear about your experiences.

Want to Help?

If you have kids between 5 and 24 and want to share stories that might be used (anonymously and with identifying details changed) please take my survey or reach out directly.
Growing up in Public Parent Survey

Ready to read about this ASAP?
Here are a few articles I’ve  written about growing up in public:

It’s not just about admissions: Teaching Kids to Live Well Even When No One is Watching Washington Post

Rules for Social Media Created by Kids New York Times

Your Kid Wants to Start a YouTube Channel: Some Advice
Washington Post

Facebook Doesn’t Care About Our Kids: What Parents Can Do

Does Instagram Hurt Kids?

Parents ask me all the time: Does Instagram hurt kids? Is social media bad for kids? My answer…It depends. Based on my own research as well as other published research, we know that connecting online with friends via texting, games or social apps can be positive for many kids.

On the other hand, most of us who study this stuff believe social media can turn up the dial on self-doubt, feelings of exclusion, or worries about physical appearance. Social media is not necessarily the sole cause of these feelings for kids. Still, new revelations add to parents’ concerns about how Instagram effects young people’s mental health.

Recently, a whistleblower from inside Facebook has exposed some very concerning internal research about Instagram (which they own), showing that as far back as 2019 if not earlier, they recognized that Instagram was particularly toxic and harmful for some teenage girls. 

Many of the parents and educators in my network feel like these internal documents, first shared in the Wall Street Journal, confirms what they already long suspected about kids’ experiences with Instagram. The current Senate hearing is asking Facebook to respond to these revelations by clarifying what they knew and what they did about it. Anyone who cares about kids and teens and their welfare should pay attention to what comes out of this hearing.  Will Facebook make sweeping changes to be sure their platform doesn’t harm children?  Don’t hold your breath for a huge transformation.

Despite all of this, I don’t recommend that parents shut kids off from all social media until they are 18. Teaching kids the ropes of social media is going to be more effective than preaching abstinence-only.  As tempting as it is to just try to keep kids off of social media, for many kids the pleasures and possibilities will outweigh the risks and harms. 

But we need to mentor, support and listen. 

Teens themselves are telling researchers that their experiences on Instagram lead to eating disorders, suicidal ideation and other threats to their health and well-being. Kids who already have a risk factor are especially vulnerable. Right now many children and adolescents are at heightened mental health risk due to the ongoing pandemic, so we can consider almost all kids to have at least one risk factor right now.

Kids are exposed to negative messages like unrealistic and unhealthy body “ideals” before they even get to social media. If social media exacerbates that exposure, and if a teen, tween or child is already vulnerable after a setback (like say being home for a year, or a negative series of social interactions, or just being a teenager in these times) that could mean that social media, if used in certain ways, can put them at risk. 

Social media algorithms can harm a child’s mental health by sending harmful and misleading content to users based on even one or two clicks in that direction. For example, when researchers created accounts as 15 year old girls and liked “a single post from a sportswear brand about dieting” and followed one other dieting-related account and these actions were enough to crowd her “explore” feed with with “content relating to weight loss journeys and tips, exercise and body sculpting.”

The researchers noted the images in her explore feed started to feature “noticeably slim, and in some cases seemingly edited/distorted body shapes.”

We can ask ourselves, why do some kids keep going back to spaces and sites that hurt them, even if they realize, at some level, that it hurts? Of course many adults do the same thing. Social sites have features (such as the ‘like button) that make them hard to quit. And we are social animals–we go where our friends are.

All of us, adults and teens, need to cultivate self-knowledge and self-regulation to identify when our use of apps may be hurting more than they are helping. But the apps also need to rethink algorithms that send toxic content to users–especially children. 

And yes, kids under thirteen aren’t supposed to use apps like Instagram, and waiting til you don’t have to lie about your age to use an app is certainly the best practice. As anyone who has been thirteen knows,  thirteen is by no means the age of complete reason and waiting til that age alone is not enough to protect kids from harmful experiences.

Take your own emotional temperature

As parents, we can work hard to get our kids to recognize that something might be making them feel worse, not better. Talking about our own experiences with social comparison can help.

Teachers, scouting leaders, athletic coaches and other adults that have influence with young people need to take every opportunity to check in about these issues with adolescents and share strategies to help teens and tweens learn the best strategies. I like to remind kids to be sure they are running their devices and not letting their devices run them. 

That means unfollowing accounts that spew harmful images and ideas, and regularly reality-checking what they see online with other sources including as much in-person social interaction as life in a pandemic allows. We should strive to give teens agency in how they use these apps, while doing our job to prepare them for the risks inherent in them. 

Every App is Special

Getting to know apps one at a time and focusing on the culture and features of that app and how it makes you feel is important.  Facebook’s own research found the culture of Instagram was especially risky for teen girl’s body-image while Tik Tok and SnapChat have some factors that mitigate (somewhat) that particular risk.

On the other hand, Tik Tok can serve up images promoting alcohol and drugs to minors, and has other content we might want our kids to avoid. And Snapchat streaks--ongoing volleys of communication that you lose if you skip a day— can stress kids out and make it hard to unplug. Every app has its own special perks and it’s own pitfalls. 

We can encourage our children to skip the “explore” feature on Instagram and focus on what their actual friends are posting. We can remind them to unfollow peers who only post things that make them feel bad and not to post things that will hurt other people.

For adults and kids, it is good to remember that if spending time on a certain app makes you feel bad, try to allocate your time accordingly, or experiment with taking a break from the app by taking it off your most frequently used device.

The teens I talk with say that interest-based social groups in spaces like Discord are less stressful than social media in general because it is about connection and affiliation and not about performing a perfect version of yourself. Yet even these spaces can have drama and conflict. There is no perfect place to hang out on the Internet! 

7 Ways Parents Can Help If They’re Worried Social Media Is Hurting Kids

We can MENTOR and not simply MONITOR. We can discuss our own experiences with social comparison. Remind kids that we’re only seeing a sliver of other people’s lives. That all of us are greater and more complex than the sum of our posts

Remind kids they can CURATE content and feeds for protection of their mental health.  We can encourage our children to be smart about the algorithm, follow positive posters and add contacts mindfully (and don’t just focus on the numbers!)

Remember and model good HABITS like choosing certain times of day to use social apps carefully and only scroll when they are feeling emotionally grounded. Remember to unplug and get enough sleep. Keeping devices out of bedrooms at night can help.

Remind kids to REALITY CHECK what they see. Remember people are using this as a space to perform. Check sources on news stories and updates. Talk about what you are seeing with others.

Encourage kids to PRIORITIZE face to face contact, hobbies they love, and work that meets their life goals over social media time.

SHARE thoughtfully and encourage kids to do the same. Be intentional about being part of the solution. 

Teach good BOUNDARIES You can model great boundaries by remembering to check with your kids before sharing images of them or news about them. Save super personal news for trusted friends.

Given that Facebook and other social media companies have shown us that profits and growth are more important to them than the safety and well being of users, we need to focus on harm-reduction and helping kids learn to navigate these spaces in ways that benefit them or, at minimum, does the least amount of harm while preserving access to the social opportunities for connection that bring us to these apps in the first place.

Not sure where to start? Join the 7-Day Family Tech Reset (below)

Transitions are Hard: Moving is Hell Edition

 

We moved this week. We’re settling into a new house after five years in our beloved apartment. My 12-year-old is not too thrilled about uprooting from a neighborhood and town he really loves.

And then on moving day, something really scary happened. We put our beloved cat in the kitchen and told the movers not to open it. Unfortunately, that communication didn’t work as planned.  Someone did open the door.

We came in with her carrier to move her to the new house and she was gone. All the doors to the building were propped wide open. Katara is NOT an outdoor cat and had never been outside. I was terrified.

My son was at camp and I could not imagine telling him that in addition to moving him away from his happy home, his beloved cat was nowhere to be found.

Friends rallied around us by making signs and walking around the neighborhood calling for her. A group of little kids that we didn’t even know walked the neighborhood looking for her. A teen from across the street got on his bike to search. We were scared, but so grateful for all the support and community.

I couldn’t stop thinking about 4pm, when I was supposed to pick up my son. How could I tell him that we let our cat escape? Could we buy some time and send him to a friend’s house, and just tell him the move was taking longer than we expected? After all, due to my complete freakout and subsequent inability to coherently instruct the moving crew, the move WAS taking way more time than expected.

Thank goodness we realized we shouldn’t lie to our tween about this. We realized it would be unforgivable to keep something so important from him.

So, my husband and I told him what we believed: that we hoped once the commotion of the moving ended, she would return. We promised that we’d all camp out in our old apartment in sleeping bags surrounded by cat food, with the door open, waiting for her.

Our son took in the news stoically and then said he had an idea he wanted to check. He walked into our empty apartment, which had been thoroughly searched by our moving crew, both adults in our family, and several friends and…found our cat, hiding on the top shelf of the linen closet, way in the back.

Had we lied to him, we would not have found her.

What did I learn from this scary experience
(other than don’t just tell a crew of movers “don’t go into that room.”)

  • Telling the truth is usually the right choice.
  • Our friends and neighbors, including total strangers are kind and amazing. We knew this, but it was a powerful reminder.
  • Kids and their pets have a powerful connection.
  • Moving is hell.

This experience reminded me that transitions are hard. When you are a cat, having big, strong people move all the furniture around you is terrifying, like someone taking apart your whole world.

That is a relatable feeling for a lot of us right now. Big pieces of our world, our jobs and our surroundings are in profound transitions. Many of these changes are out of our control.

Be kind to yourself as you muddle through this transition. Take breaks. Hide out in a cozy corner where you feel safe, then venture out to try things.

Wishing you well through all your transitions, even if it is “just” the transition to a summer schedule, are stressful. Especially on top of what we’ve all been through these last 16 months…

I’ll be over here unpacking. And petting the cat.

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Should you post about where your child is going to college?: #Decisionday dilemmas

If you are in a community with lots of college bound kids you may have noticed a few (or a few hundred) shares in your timeline recently about where seniors were accepted at college and where they plan to attend. In Chicago, where I live, families are also posting about acceptances to high school.

This can get tricky–for kids who may not want their parents to post, for young people who won’t be attending their “dream school” and for anyone who is feeling anxious about the future. Especially after a very tough year of pandemic high school.

Admissions season can be hard for parents who have young adults on a different path. Maybe your son or daughter is considering trade school, an apprenticeship, community college or heading into the workforce. Maybe their gap year will be an epic year of service or maybe they are planning to work and save while they figure things out.

If you have a teen looking at credit recovery after a rough year of remote school, know that you are not alone. And so many teens have had their progress upended by a mental health crisis. There are also many families that don’t have tuition money right now who are having to make alternate plans.

Some parents have told me they wish other parents just wouldn’t post about college choices. Young people have told me their parents’ posts make them cringe. Many of the teens I spoke with are very sensitive about bragging and concerned about making friends feel bad. They have been thoughtful about letting friends know one on one, especially if they are applying to the same schools. High school students are also very supportive of friends who don’t get in. We can learn from their example.

I spoke to Julie Jargon about this for the Wall Street Journal. Often, teens have had more social media experience than their parents and use Instagram and other apps in a more nuanced way. Some applicants also seek solace and commiseration in the genre of college rejection Tik Tok.

Here are a few suggestions about getting through this season to save for next year:

1) Consent is everything. Most importantly–as with any social media post– but especially in the face of big deal news–get permission. If they say no, just don’t post.

2) Timing is important. Has your child shared with the folks they want to tell? Don’t steal their thunder.

3) Consider the audience. We are all hungry for good news. I am not suggesting that you hold out on grandparents who are eagerly awaiting updates, but take a moment to consider: Who really needs to know? If it is just family and close friends, can you simply send a text or jump on FaceTime?

4) Don’t share til they are sure. If your teen hasn’t decided, sharing the list of possibilities may create pressure for them, as people may ask them about these different schools. Also, posting each acceptance one by one may be a bit much for your followers.

5) Have empathy for yourself and others! Parents are going through a lot right now, and even in a non-pandemic year, sending teens out into the world is emotionally fraught. Over-posting may not be the best way to deal with anxiety, but…have compassion and feel free to use the “unfollow for 30 days” feature or something along those lines if someone’s posts are making you feel stressed. And have empathy for that person’s teen, who may be cringing (or blissfully ignorant) about parental posting.

6) Unplug and take a break. If you or your child is stressed by the “seniors on Instagram” that some high schools create, or the flurry of sweatshirt-wearing, pennant waving posts….take a break from social media. Go outside! Ride your bike. Find a way to unplug from mid April to mid May at least. See above about unfollowing the folks who are getting to you.

7) Remember life is complicated! Some 17-year-olds may seem to have their future planned out. Of my adult friends, I have one or two who had the correct guess about their adult career path at that age. Many of us are in careers that didn’t exist when we were 17. Your undecided kid who can admit they are not sure what they want to do is being honest with themselves and with you. It will be OK.

Finally, congratulations. We’ve almost made it through this tough school year.
Whether you pandemic homeschooled, masked up for in-person, or managed remote school…You are here! Whether your child got good grades or will have to do summer school… You are here! Our families, our communities and our world have been through a traumatic experience. And it isn’t over.

If you are reading this, then you are lucky enough to still be here. So, take a moment to breathe in and out.

Don’t scroll if it is hurting you. If you do scroll, send empathy towards all who are posting and all who are not posting. We all need it.

screentime rules

Is learning to use a smartphone like learning to ride a bike?

screentime rulesAfter a few recent warm days, we optimistically went out and bought our son a bigger bike. They guy at the store says he’ll “grow into it.” It is so big that I can ride it. After all, he’s only about two inches shorter than his mom as a just-turned-twelve year old.

He’s still getting used to the bike. The wobbly start feels like a metaphor for challenges of re-entry as we start to cautiously socialize outdoors after a cold and isolating winter. For kids thrust back into the daily thrum of school, it can be a little overwhelming. Remember, everyone else is a little rusty, too.

The bigger bike our son is adjusting to also feels like a metaphor for smartphones: powerful machines that we give to kids, often at about that age. Their first efforts may be wobbly. They will need mentoring and possibly some training wheels to get good at using these sophisticated communication devices.

Luckily, if you are reading this, you have lots of great resources for mentoring tweens through that transition and many others as they grow up in the digital world.

Resources for you

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. My days are full with supervising zoom school, taking walks and writing my new book and my evenings are spent zooming into different communities to talk about pandemic screen time, games, kid’s friendship and finding a balance.

Some communities are back to school in-person, others are hybrid, and others (like us) are still doing remote learning. I’ve zoomed into Boston, Indiana, Brooklyn, and Seattle and families are grappling with transition and new decisions everywhere. The Q and A period of every talk has been filled with great questions from families.

Here are some resources that respond to these inquiries and to recent events:

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