Dear Trish: My digital resolution was to do a better job of talking to my parents about my phone and my social media. How do I actually do that?
First and foremost, congratulations (seriously!) on setting such a great digital resolution for 2022, and a huge kudos to you for asking this question. Despite the fact that this is an issue that so many tweens and teens I know struggle with, it takes a little bravery to ask – so thank you so much. I want to begin by validating this issue: as I made light of in this week’s TikTok, talking to your parent(s) (or a guardian(s)) about tech can be, well…tricky. And without good channels for communication, you can find yourself getting into argument after argument with a parent/guardian, which is super frustrating and not at all worth it. What’s my perspective? Simply put: because generally, many of us know much more about tech and the Internet than our parents/guardians do, we should take the responsibility – especially if they’ve entrusted us with a phone (and they’re paying for that data plan!) – to lead the way when it comes to #techtalks.
Before we get into how, exactly, I think y’all should do that, let’s take a step back. You might be wondering: why do I have to have tech chats with my parent/guardian at all? That sounds HORRIBLE and a way for them to invade my privacy. #argh Believe it or not, while it might seem that way, that’s not quite right. Having tech chats with your parents/guardians can in fact be a way for you to be a part of setting ground rules for your phone/other devices. By stepping up to the plate and showing your parents/guardians that you’re willing to engage, you give them a reason to involve you in the conversation and yourself a chance to advocate for what you want, whether it’s more screen time or more privacy on social media. The other reason it’s so important to chat with a parent or guardian about tech is it creates a safe, neutral space for you to access should you run into trouble online. I know, I know…you’re thinking: pssh, Trisha – I’m going to be fine. But as the #AskTrish community knows well, the Internet can be a little crazy sometimes, and when things go wrong, knowing that you can turn to a parent/guardian is huge. I can’t tell you how many young people I’ve met that have silently suffered through Internet harms because they were just too scared to talk to their parents (which can feel really terrifying if you’ve never talked tech with them before!). Don’t put yourself in that position.
Okay; so we’ve got the why down. Now, to get to the question at the heart of this post – how do you actually talk to your parents about tech? What are some tangible tips to make it happen? Tip #1 is to do some research and reflection. Before you sit down to chat with your parent/guardian about the technology in your life, think about your phone/the current role it plays in your life; what, if anything, you would change about the current rules re: your phone; and any research you can bring to the table to support your points. Being thoughtful and intentional is really important – and signals maturity and responsibility. Once you’ve done that work, it’s time to get talking! Which brings me to tip #2: if you’re not sure how to “start,” initiate a casual conversation with your parents/guardians at a time when they are undistracted and available to you. Try to reference the current tech regime (whether there are a ton of rules in your house, or none at all!), and express your interest in being a part of the conversation. Something as simple as, “Hey guys! I was hoping, if you have a sec, to talk to y’all about my phone. I know we have XYZ rules about my phone, but I was really hoping we could just talk openly about what might be the best for me. I’ve been giving it some thought, and I wanted it to be a conversation amongst all of us.”
Once you’ve had that first conversation or few conversations, tip #3 is to try to create a regular, ongoing tech check-in with your parents. Maybe y’all chat every 2 weeks, for 15 minutes on a Sunday afternoon, at which time you can evaluate changes, or bring up new concerns – or, if there’s nothing to talk about, just enjoy a snack! By creating structure, you create transparency and openness, which will help you avoid situations like the one I was joking around about in this week’s TikTok video. Tip #4 is to really, truly try to stick to the rules you and your parents/guardians have set. It’s a two-way street: chatting with them gives you a chance to share your perspective, but it also means that you need to listen, too. It’s not just about principle here, it’s also about what might happen if you #breaktherules: once you’ve broken their trust, you’ve really brought yourself back to square one in this process. (And that is majorly #sucky.) Rather than rebel and break the rules, stick to them, and use the check-ins you’ve set to work out any issues.
I hope all of that advice was helpful! Again, this was a phenomenal question! Whether you have a similar or completely different Internet-related topic on your mind, don’t hesitate to send in your note, question, or thoughts here. Your topic just might be the focus of an upcoming TikTok/blog post, and you can positively impact Ask Trish’s many readers! There’s a really good chance you’re not the only person wondering about that same question, whatever it may be, so feel empowered to share your perspective.
Finally, I want to encourage y’all to give the Ask Trish videos you watch a little love! Like and share your favorite Ask Trish posts. 💙 Together, we can spread a little #InternetPositivity!
Until next Tuesday,