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Personal Space seeking Addictive Teens: Apprehensions of Parenting in Hi-Tech Era

“Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.”

— Arnold H. Glasgow

In today's technology-driven world, parents go through tough time handling teenagers; hence teenagers are flooded with countless distractions readily available at their fingertips and faced with numerous challenges when it comes to obeying parents, managing their time, and staying focused. Therefore it is tremendously challenging for parents and educators to keep adolescents away from the magnetism of technology. Let's delve into some of the major difficulties in handling these technology-era teenagers and explore strategies to combat distractions.

The super-addictive nature of smartphones and social media platforms is one of the major hindrances in managing teenagers and making them constructive. Whether it's scrolling through Instagram, binge-watching videos on TikTok, or endlessly chatting on messaging apps like whatsapp, these activities effortlessly consume hours of their time and they don’t even get to realize it.

Mentioning the story back on Instagram what a friend has posted and tagged, is something like if you don't get to do, you don't exist. It means to them like a matter of life and existence. They behave like psycho if parents don’t permit or snatch the phone. The constant need for virtual connection with friends and even strangers usually pull teenagers away from more productive activities such as studying, engaging in physical exercises, inculcating good hobbies or valuing relationship with siblings and parents.

The prevailing practice of using smartphones, tablets and laptops also spearheads to another challenge: the blurring and overlapping of boundaries between academic and personal life. With academic necessities now relying heavily on digital platforms, teenagers find it difficult to untangle themselves from hi-tech distractions. The once-clear separation between study and leisure time has now become progressively blurry and fuzzy, triggering complications in time management and prioritizing roles and responsibilities tied to the age. Even if parents want to take phones away, teachers keep giving one assignment or the other where they get an excuse to take the phone back and the drama starts again of deceptive life full of diversions from fruitful goals.

The invasion and overflow of various forms of entertainment is another big problem and obstacle in dealing and directing teens towards productive activities and tasks. The multiplying availability of online gaming, streaming services, and video-sharing platforms produces an unlimited source of appealing and engaging content that lures them incessantly. Wine, cigarettes, drugs, multiple affairs, late night parties, and sex, all they wish to go for.

The flood of pornographic series, movies and shows full of obscenity and vulgarity impact their hearts and minds so badly that they start living in such filmic world and argue with parents if denied to perform such acts and chase these courses. For them tasting the forbidden fruit of sex in adolescence is not less than any valiant accomplishment to boast in front of friends that they finally made it. If they don’t talk, see or experience, they feel odd one outs in their circle and say remaining virgin is nowadays is an old school thing. Educating and talking to teens in a right way related to sex and physical-mental needs and making them understand is also a part of parenting and most of the parents fail in it.

Additionally, flourishing race of influencers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with their reels and videos inspire them so much that they start living in fake and dreamy world. They start thinking to opt short cuts for earning money. Arguing with parents for choosing such paths as full time career prospects becomes the part of their nature and if tried to counsel against their wish, they threaten to kill themselves or leave homes and stop listening to parents. It becomes strenuous for them to break free from these distractions and for their parents to positively instruct them to remain focused on their studies or other essential tasks as they become dumb-eared.

Moreover, the unremitting blitzkrieg of notifications and updates imposes yet another dare for both parents and teenagers. These notifications act as triggers, releasing dopamine and reinforcing the addictive nature of technology. The fear of missing out (FOMO) often pushes teenagers to constantly check their smartphones, diverting their attention and hindering their ability to concentrate on important activities. They feel it a part of their daily routine to check on Instagram what their friends have posted.

So, how can we confront such hitches and keep teenagers away from distractions? Communication between parents, educators, and teenagers is crucial. Thus, there should be an establishment of a healthy and open line of communication with teenagers listening to their concerns, desires, and frustrations without judgment. It's important to understand their perspective before attempting to guide them.

Though the book ‘Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother’ by Shunali Khullar Shroff makes you believe that parenting in the new millennium does not come with an instructional manual are not set manuals to. And no doubt it is a big responsibility and truly a daunting task on the shoulders of parents managing children in adolescence and bringing them up as a kid of today with multiple challenges, therefore, few strategies can be applied to make them better human in life with least distractions.

Establishing rules and setting boundaries around technology usage can help manage the amount of time spent on digital devices. Encouraging open conversations about the negative impacts of excessive screen time can foster understanding and cooperation. Moreover their should be a reinforce that they start realizing and implementing it in their schedule as a sacrosanct thing.

Teaching the importance of time management and goal setting is essential. Encourage teenagers to set short-term and long-term goals. Help them connect their goals with their current choices. Assist them in understanding the importance of education and the long-term benefits it can bring. Share stories and examples of successful individuals who have achieved their dreams through hard work, perseverance, and dedicating time to their studies. Encourage teenagers to explore their passions and interests while balancing their academic responsibilities. This can help them find motivation and purpose in their studies.

Teenagers need guidance in prioritizing their activities and managing their time effectively. Utilizing digital tools such as time management apps and blocking distracting websites and deactivating social media accounts can also aid in minimizing distractions. Though dealing with such distracted teenagers who have an increasingly individualistic attitude and prioritize freedom over their studies and career is very challenging for apprehensive parents. Cutting them from such distractions at times lead them towards psychological or mental issues, incase parents should seek help of counselors or professionals.

Furthermore, promoting alternating activities can divert teenagers' attention away from technology. Heartening outdoor pursuits, hobbies, and sports can provide healthy outlets and reduce dependency on digital devices. Engaging teenagers in intellectually stimulating conversations, book clubs, or volunteering activities can also foster personal growth, increasing their focus on meaningful endeavors. Set limits and establish rules that encourage a healthy balance between leisure activities and academic commitments.

Finally, it is crucial for parents and educators to lead by example. Try to recognize and celebrate their achievements, both big and small and reinforce positively. Consistently modeling responsible technology usage and demonstrating the benefits of staying focused can greatly influence teenagers. By showing them the advantages of dedicating time to offline activities and cultivating interpersonal relationships, we can help teenagers realize the importance of minimizing digital distractions. Stay vigilant to discard unhealthy peer relationships from their lives, and do not negatively impact it their studies.

Theoretically saying it seems quite easy but pragmatically making them draw such lines or follow rules is extremely heroic deed as this is the age where they start seeking authority and freedom in their matters quoting it as their ‘personal space’. While emphasizing the importance of studies and career prospects, also recognize their need for autonomy and freedom. Help them understand that responsible decision-making and time management can allow for a balance between freedom and commitments ensuring their individualism and ‘personal space’.

Veteran Actress Priyanka Chopra says- “Though the kids today are smarter, stronger, more independent and more sure of themselves than we ever were and at the most times will leave you feeling somewhat inadequate and ill-equipped for parenthood.” Yet parents need to remain hopeful that teenagers' attitudes and priorities will change over time with provided guidance, support, and understanding.

However, by establishing clear communication, teaching time management skills, promoting alternate activities, leading by example, appreciating and celebrating their achievements, seeking professional help, providing sex education, making a balance between their autonomy and guidance by parents, teenagers can be motivated to create a better balance between technology and focusing on essential aspects of their lives and it would surely lessen parents’ anxieties and qualms if teens will become more responsible and thoughtful.

Dr Shalini Yadav

(Writer, Editor & Professor)

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