“I took myself off instagram when I was on my family vacation. I just had to take a break from seeing how much fun everyone else was having.”
A freshman in high school said these words to me this week. She follows a long line of other girls who have realized the potential impact of social media. For girls who compare themselves to others (aka all girls), it can become very discouraging. As we say often in parenting seminars, loneliness doesn’t show up on instagram. I don’t know that anyone (let’s be honest, adults) looks at social media and thinks, “I really love my life.” Instead, we look at others’ more fun vacations, happier children and more perfect lives. What we’re seeing is not reality. Neither is what your son or daughter sees. But, he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to know that. She believes that every friend is having a better summer and getting with friends more than she is. And, the problem with summer is that there is simply so much time. They have more hours in the day to look at Instagram and read Tumblr and follow what their friends are doing on pinterest. It can consume hours of their day and can easily become a lonely substitute for a social life.
If you’re starting to see your child spend more time watching others experience their social lives than actually pursuing one themselves, it may be time to help. I have several families who have limited the hours their kids can look at social media in the summer. I have several kids who have limited themselves. I also see girls who set goals for themselves about reaching out to other kids...texting two girls per week to try to get together with, for example.
How is your child investing their time this summer? Do they need your help moving out of the virtual world and toward face to face friendships? Invite their friends over. Take a group of kids to the pool. Show a movie outside on the side of your house. Make s’mores in a firepit. Give them opportunities to connect in real life. They may need your strong encouragement to do so. It’s so easy to lose touch in the summer and allow screens to take the place of faces, especially for the more introverted kids. Those screens will never give your son or daughter the joy of a real friendship, especially one that grows under a blue, wide open summer sky. And here are some great, alternative, old school ways for you and your child to enjoy the summer!