I don't want my MTV!
As the holiday season grows ever closer, so to do the wonderful days of Christmas vacation. More specifically, children, teens and even those in college look forward to coming home to reconnect, catch up with friends, play plenty of video games, and let's be honest - eat!! It's not difficult for me to remember flying back to my childhood home in northern Alberta once exams were finished at university, and relishing the chance to feel the warm atmosphere in the house with the rest of my family. One of the most popular activities for the six of us to do every Christmas was watch plenty of television; from football games, to movies and any number of regular weekly programs. It always seems somehow very dated to say this now, but I never fully understood why until I came across an interesting article this week.
The world of entertainment for teens and young adults has shifted significantly over the last few years, to the point where it may be all but unrecognizable to many today. In an article for Business Insider, nine teens shared their habits in using digital technology for entertainment and communication purposes, and the results are worth noting for parents and those working with young people. One of the main themes gained from this brief but revealing research was that entertainment and communication have become completely interwoven now, and in ways that would never have been conceived of only a few years ago. For example, the practice of sitting in front of the television at home, and watching cable or satellite offerings for programming is quickly disappearing. At one time, being entertained by one's favourite programs was simple affair: there was one main television, and networks decided what and when we would watch them.
Teens also actively create their own entertainment content now as well, and can quickly and easily send each other personal videos that are immediately viewed by friends. An application called Snapchat allows this, and is popular with this age group. Netflix is also the preferred method for watching programs produced by the entertainment industry, where one is able to watch an entire series on-demand, and without sitting through commercials. There is a large degree of freedom and independence that comes from being able to have so much control over sources of entertainment, and to personalize it in ways that have quickly become very attractive and essential for teens.
So what are the implications of this fundamental shift in entertainment technology for the parents and other siblings of teens? Primarily, we need to be aware and accepting (on a certain level) that the days of the family sitting down to watch an evening of "whatever's on" on television, or even renting a DVD or on-demand movie are rapidly coming to a close, if they haven't disappeared already. Replacing this natural time to connect is a very personalized entertainment experience that parents often do not have a role in. Indeed, one of the reasons given for many teens using Facebook less and less are that one's parents are on there as well! In the battle to create more natural connection points within the family, television's (for better or worse) influence has faded dramatically. If your teen has a tablet computer that is freely accessible to them, chances are even better that other family members are unlikely to be as included in the entertainment viewing experience as they once would have been.
At one time, television was given credit as a legitimate way for families to connect. Many were suspicious of whether its influence was ever a healthy one; regardless, we are now being challenged as a society to come up with new and effective ways to create healthy connection within the family, and ones that can either use or work alongside the new technology that young people have seamlessly adapted to. Technology has had the unintended effect of creating closer connections between friends and peers for teens - but adults can be left in the lurch, wishing the old methods were still as effective. The good news is teens almost always desire healthy connection with parents and adult figures, as long as adults will make a concerted effort. If you accept this challenge, what methods will you use to create connection and belonging within your family?
Andrew Portwood is a certified Masters-level counselor in Kelowna with a heart for supporting and helping children, youth and young adults. He has also helped many parents to grasp a better understanding of why their children are choosing the behaviours they have, and how to move forward in a supportive, healthy manner. Creating authentic connection and clarity is essential in all he does, both as a counselor and in his life. Find more about him and his practice:
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