Contributed by Nicholas Pediaditakis, MD, DLFAPA
Every parent knows very well the mixed blessing of teenager children in the house. Adolescence is a funny age; like the transforming stages from pupa to chrysalis before becoming butterflies.
It reminds me of a fragment of a poem; “pupa half delivered, chrysalis half realized.” Teenagers too, are no longer children, and yet not quite adults. They are turmoiled, intense, often confused and more often unpredictable. Their main concern — aside from the rapid transformation of their bodies — is their social identity; as opposed to concerns about sexuality as many people wrongly assume. Such concerns are kept aside by the strong uneasiness about it. They are really mostly caring about social give-and-take.
Teens are constantly busy for input, social ranking, and acceptance while learning patterns for social interactions and skills — social creatures as we are. That is where the electronic devices come into play. Their smart phones, and their incessant chatting through texting with their funny abbreviations and short cuts!
These devices are not just helping tools; but, they soon become an integral part of their identity and an extension of their body. Pavlovian-like reactions — akin to Pavlov’s famous dogs with their salivations associated with the signal of the bell connected to the smell and taste of food. Teenagers too, grab their smart device as soon as the device buzzes, or there is discord with their parents, or they feel anxious, lonely, or develop social doubts. They then grab the device, and text rapidly in a mysterious written language they themselves have invented, the content often devoid of meaning but just a soothing chatter.
Parents frequently ask me if texting or the use of a smart phone is helpful or beneficial. As they soon learn, prohibiting use is a powerful leverage for punishment. My response to parents’ inquiries is that smart phones are very helpful in the development of social skills and identity.
The process takes place over the waves rather than the young adolescent roaming the streets, wasting time traveling long distances or hanging out for hours with their friends to fulfill the need of social identity, certainty and learn social skills that are part of growing up. There is the added advantage that even shy teenagers who felt isolated or cut-off before can now fulfill friendship and camaraderie as the used medium protects from anxiety.
As a concerned parent, you need to know all that. Be really, we should be thankful for the devices and the social media as they facilitate the fulfilling of needs of teenage years harmlessly.
Copyright © 2015 by Nicholas Pediaditakis, MD