Connecting with teenagers / understanding screenagers.

Teens and Screens.

My teenager seemed to be spending her LIFE on the IPhone! FOMO ruled our lives! I had to take action! The phone was eroding the quality of my connection with my daughter. 

I felt I was in uncharted, stormy waters. Taking Poseidon’s trident I decided on a 3 pronged attack!

I really wanted my girl to play a sport and ‘get out more’. I hoped she would make ‘real’ friends, live in the ‘here and now’, and also learn about teamwork, get strong, and have stamina etc etc… Sportspeople learn that ‘failure’ is the just 1st step on the way to success, they OWN it! If you want to get anywhere in life you have to fall on your face a few times…

All good stuff…(echoes of MY youth)…but she flat refused any sport on offer.

It turns out she’s not a team sporter. She’s a reader, a music listener, a lyric decipherer, a bibliophile… and she can do ALL that on the Iphone, and some!

I decided on these three things…

I wouldn’t ban the phone. That would be a cold turkey disaster!

I would introduce more ‘slow screen’ activity, for example drawing.

Through slow screen experience we would start the discussion to introduce screen free time.

This would mean talking about self regulation, creating good phone habits, and talking possible strategies to be implemented to ‘leave the phone alone.’  (Pomodoro technique)

I knew it would be hard… this insidious thing had crept in my life like a disease, an addiction. Unlike cigarettes and alcohol you can’t get away from them, flushed them. It had become enmeshed in the very fabric of my life… and I had unwittingly invited it in! 

She’s not a sporter,  but what about an artistic workout? Slow screen style? This also exercises you…in some ways even better than on the sports field. We started with the ‘Draw something’ app exchanging doodles, having a laugh. Slowly I began to promote ‘slow screen’ activity. I learnt about her fanzines, praised Wattpad and the ability to comment on other’s peoples stories. I  could see that online friendships could be forged based on the books you read, and not much different from my own prehistoric pen pals. I bought an iPad but said it was for ‘slow screent’ art projects, we downloaded cool drawing apps like Tayasui.

One day I was drawing the iPad and my 14 year old said “That’s cool, how did you do that?” 

Ha! I was on the right track…

We started to ‘draw daily’, beginning with a pretty easy art workouts. Drawing relaxes, slows you down, absorbs, improves your wellbeing! Just like in the gym, you shape up pretty quickly! Also like the gym the simple exercises are often the best, with hardly any equipment. Life drawing and sketching, with the simple pen and paper, any time, any place. We take pictures of our drawings and we post them on Instagram. I always write a piece to go with the drawing… stuff she’d never listen to in ‘real life. I could just slip it in there. Sometimes we do iPad sketches. Drawings that used to take days, now take hours…and now we flex some more muscle and take on even bigger projects. 

Improving your creative muscles boosts your self confidence, gives you artistic stamina and resilience. An artistic workout tones your powers of observation. You literally ‘look more’, your mindful of your surroundings, take note and enjoy them as you ponder and process. This can’t be a bad thing. You build on your resourcefulness, your inventiveness as you warm up to creative challenges. 

Artwork’s are… (clue in the word) WORK ! and you exercise making decisions each step of the way. All manner of decisions; good ones, bad ones, even better ones. You surprise yourself! You see yourself on paper. You gain a skill. 

The amazing thing is…this then gets applied to all manner of ‘real life’ situations! The ‘here and now!’ I was a happy Mum! It will never be the perfect time, right place, and best people all in the same moment. But my girl  has learnt something through art. She won’t be paralysed by this need for perfection in everything.  Creative exercise has changed that fear into familiarity. She sees things for what they are and quickly moves on to plan B. ‘Wardrobe malfunctions’ are dealt with swiftly, and minor disasters averted with innovation or wry smile. Art is helping her create the person she wants to be. Creating makes you let go of being the perfectionist, you embrace the mistake and keep your eyes open for the ‘happy accident!’ You see the whole thing as a process. 

They use to say “jack of all trades, master of none” but i think  screenagers are different. They’ve grown up multitasking. They have great online friends/groups. They’re always in contact with their real life friends and class, they have a laugh, while listening to music and doing their homework and googling information and watching you tube!! 

I found a ‘back door’ to connect to my teenager. I looked for common ground and I built on it. I’m not saying its easy but if you can find some slow screen activity you can share you might be surprised how much you learn ..and relax with a screen and your teen.

See some of our mother and daughter draw daily @rubyjoy13 @madebykate2