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You are what you post

There is an old ad age that says: “you are what you eat”.

In our house, my husband I and I work to make good dietary choices, eat whole foods and avoid processed products. We are pretty good at staying on track. Until we’re not :) But as the mother of two (almost) teen girls, it’s not their food diet that has me wrapped in worry: it’s their steady diet of social media and technology.

I’ve quoted them before (but I’ll say it again) According to Rawhide.com, American teens are now spending more time in front of screens that ANY other activity. We can only assume the trend is similar for Canadian teens. That scary stat means that teens are consuming more digital media than ANY other activity including: sleeping (with an average 7 hrs/night), school (average 6 hours/day) or exercising (average .7 hours per day)*.

In today’s digital age, there is no faster way to access a teen’s group of friends than through social media. I use the term “friends” loosely because many social media “friends” bestowed with such a title hardly even know your teen at all. No. Through hours of scrolling, clicking, liking and commenting she has been credited those names… a following…. a group…a vacant community of faces in the latest teen commodity: social media followers.

The currency of followers has become so valuable today that teens (specifically young girls) are pushing themselves and their images into over glamorized (and over sexualized) situations in order to fill their feeds with photos worthy of exceptional online attention. I could show you samples but if you’re a Mom of young teen girls I know that you have seen them: hair, makeup, pursed lips, cleavage, innocent eyes….from 14 & 15 year old girls! What’s uber sad about this is not just that young girls have learned to ask their peers to value them as sexual objects but that they blend into a sea of online 14 year old sexual objects.

How does this happen? Did our mothers not begin this battle decades ago? How are we letting our teens demean the fight through social photo sharing?

I’ve heard parents defend this behaviour with “it’s what they ALL do” or It’s just the “norm”. I’m sorry, Wha??

In our house we have a few guidelines:

If you don’t know them, they are not to be followed (if you’re struggling with this one think – have they been to my house?) This means that my daughters have a measly 34 followers but guess what? Don’t care. These are your FRIENDS. You don’t need followers.

Photos are to include something (not just your figure). Validation does not come from people liking your body. It comes from the unique perspective you provide from your photos and comments.

No comments on others’ physical appearance and keep all comments positive. I swear if I had a dollar for every time I read one teen girl refer to another as OMG HOT AF (hot as fuck) or “You’re SO HOT” or “Body GOALS”. Really? We want this exchange?? Nope. No thanks.

 

Now,  I know it’s unrealistic to expect teens to scrub their accounts from the 2000 followers (really? 2000?) they have and re-instate only true friends but can we not unite together to ban inappropriate content (see rule number 2 above)? Should we not encourage our girls to do the same?

We’ve worked so hard to move society beyond dated stereotypes we owe our teens equal access to a community based on personality and wit – not appearance.

The value of being followed leaves teens living to please others instead of pursuing what could make them happy long term: real interests, unique perspectives and intellectual leadership.

Remind your kids that  they are the sum of the choices they make and the images that they broadcast online.

In truth: you are not just what you eat….you are what you post.

Get your Tweens (& Teens) Outside

As the warm weather approaches, we – desperate to feel sun and warm air after months of winter hibernation – run for the parks and paths like long caged animals.

Kids have endless energy and there is no more freeing, boundless play for them then being outdoors. Luckily, young kids still love to hang out with their parents and that’s where example is the best rule: you lead, they follow. Outside.

But when your kids approach tween/teen years, getting outside is not as simple as “let’s go to the park”. Few 12+ year olds want to “hang-out” with their parents in public (unless you are traveling, eating out or in line to pay for their purchase at the Apple Store) and so…. you need to get creative. Even though play styles change with age, it is still vital to tweens, teens and yes, even adults.

According to countless studies as summarized by Business Insider, Outdoor play has been known to improve memory, restore mental energy, reduce stress, improve eyesight, sharpen your creative thinking and analytical abilities. What teen doesn’t need that?  The problem is, how can we do to get at it?

For most modern-day tweens, technology is king. In fact, many would argue outdoor play has died at the expense of technology. Here are some fun ways to get young tweens and teens outside (and in some cases, technology is the impetus).

1. Geocaching

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Geocaching (if you’re one of the few that has not yet tried it) is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices (your phone). Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. To sign up you register for an account , turn on your location services giving you access to hidden treasure in your immediate area. You’ll be amazed at how many on in your neighbourhood – on your street even. As a group you hunt until the treasure is found, marked and returned.

 

2. Digital Scavenger Hunt

Take only pictures – leave only footprints is what nature enthusiasts preach. This is the theme of a digital scavenger hunt. Great for a larger group of mixed ages (we do this at family get togethers) this activity suits all abilities. And hey, you can even take your phone (photos only).

 How to:

a |  Write a list of items ranging from the ordinary to ornate (ie: a bird, a dog, a mailbox, uncle Steve, a footprint, a feather, a lily flower, a wild bull). Give each team of participants a copy of this list.

b  | Participants must find and photograph on ONE DEVICE (a phone, IPOD, tablet) all of the items. Make sure to include places and spaces that are far apart and get creative (ie: a photo of 6 team members by the corner store). Tweens will have a blast trying to find all of the items and will have to communicate and collaborate to get them.

c  | The first team back with all (or the most) items on the list photographed wins.

Oh and have a prize. Tweens don’t go for a high five anymore but “first choice of dessert” or “getting served food at the table by others” usually works well.

3. Nature Mandala Contest

http://mottesblog.blogspot.ca/2015/09/diy-nature-mandalas.htm

Mandala from Motte’sBlog.blogspot.ca

 

Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means “circle”. Mandalas generally have one identifiable centre point, from which emanates an array of symbols, shapes and forms. If you want inspiration, check out Motte’s blog and the insanely beautiful photos of nature mandalas. We owe them the above photo credit.

How to:

Hand out baskets and bags and send teens through various terrain looking for natural materials. Remind them that rocks, sticks, feathers and seeds make great content – not just flowers. After a good 30 minutes of gathering, teens return to your home patio, deck or picnic table where everyone arranges their mandalas.

Allow participants to photograph them and save them…shoot …they can even post them on Instagram (they will be so happy for such content!). See above for prizing.

4. Train for something together

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There are so many great Canadian charities to support why not support one with a physical commitment? Find one that motivates your teen by referring to the Canadian Race Guide. Set a goal and train outside together. Invite friends.

One of the happiest runs ever is the Colour Run. a 5k that runs in major cities across Canada. A reasonable distance (5k takes the average runner 35-40 minutes to complete) and a rip-roaring feast of colour and happiness.

 

Outdoor activities – such as these listed – teach the values of team activities:  cooperation and leadership. Tweens & teens are reminded of the rules of play and the joy of being outdoors. They learn to communicate and make REAL connections.

Eventually,  they will use these experiences to initiate their own activities. Through example and experience they will learn that there are ways to entertain themselves outside of technology and social media.

Whatever the strategy, a connection with the natural world is a key part to establishing a sense of self and happiness. It might take a little more effort to get them off of their screens and outside, but it’s worth it. So make a plan. And get outside with your teens.