Today, we have an almost limitless number of ways to connect with one another. Smartphones put the world of social media, texting and email just a swipe away at all times. FaceTime and Skype make face-to-face interaction possible without actually being face-to-face. And sites like Instagram and Snapchat allow users to exercise the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words, encouraging sharing of photos that capture every moment ― no matter how mundane.

Unfortunately, as teens strive to capture every minute of their lives, they may be missing out on the actual experiences they’re so desperate to share.

Teens today communicate very differently from the generations that came before. They love to maintain seamless connection to social media, whether they are at home, school or socializing. But their attempts to stay engaged with their friends online often lead to alienation of family and friends who are actually there with them in the moment.

Many parents are frustrated by this disinterest in the here and now. For example, a mom may plan a special girls’ day out with her teen, only to have her daughter text her way through lunch and pedicures, sacrificing potential one-on-one bonding time to surf social media or chat with friends. Or, maybe a dad buys tickets to his son’s favorite sporting event, only to discover his teen is more interested in live-tweeting the game play by play instead of enjoying the experience as it happens.

There are two ways to change this behavior. First, have an open and honest discussion with your teen about her connectivity, and how it’s impacting the family. She may not understand that her behavior is, at best, alienating, and at worst, rude and disrespectful. Tell her how much you enjoy spending time with her, but stress that you want her to be full present during your time together ― not just physically present.

Set aside times when phones and tablets can’t be used, such as family dinner time or during special activities you enjoy together. If you like to hike on the weekends, leave the phones in the car before you hit the trail. Or, if you are visiting Grandma and Grandpa, ask that your teen be respectful and talk to them instead of texting with friends.

Be prepared to enforce these rules with agreed-upon consequences for using phones or tablets during these “black-out periods.” Make sure your teen knows that if she uses her phone during these times, she will lose her phone.

Finally, model the behavior you want to see in your teen. Many adults are just as guilty of being too plugged in. If possible, create a hard line between your work day and your evening family time. Try to avoid the temptation to check work email, respond to calls or work after hours if possible. Showing your teen that you are fully present in the moment will encourage them to change their own behavior ― and it shows you value and enjoy spending time with them with no distractions.

If you’d like to learn more ways to better connect with your teen and tips to help your family learn to be present in the moment, please contact Compass Rose Academy today.