“My Teen Spends Too Much Time [insert activity here].”

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my kids, and kids/teens in general, are spending their time and how it’s making us parents frustrated. Part of this was due to a random episode of Dear Hank and John where a Dad was complaining about how much time his kid spent watching THEIR YouTube videos. I WOULD LOVE IT IF MY KID WATCHED TOO MUCH VLOGBROTHERS!

But that also got me reflecting on how I spent time as a kid which is kinda why I wrote about my own childhood last week…to let parents know how some kids in my generation were spending THEIR time. This was my reminder that ALL parents from ALL generations face the same struggles, just in different forms.

This weekend I think I boiled it down enough to make a logical approach that I think will help more than just me, so I thought I’d share. 

If I’m frustrated or angry or worried about my kid spending too much time doing X, then I need to figure out which category my concern falls into:

1. I am frustrated because they’re spending their time differently than I want them to be spending it…they’re “wasting” too much time on X. 

2. I am frustrated because they’re neglecting something like school/family/sleep/health.

If the problem is the FIRST category – and as long as it’s not dangerous like a drug habit or criminal activity – then I need to step back and take a deep breath and remember: EVERY KID WASTES TIME IN EVERY GENERATION. My Dad hated…I mean…HATED how much time I talked on the phone. He tried to limit it but I would sneak it in when he was sleeping. He also hated…HATED…how much time I spent reading crap non-fiction. The best advice I have heard (and one I have taken myself) is to try to find a way INTO their interests. Like, Nikki watches a lot of makeup tutorials on YouTube and I finally…FINALLY…sat down to watch her favorite with her this weekend and you know? It wasn’t so bad. I would never watch it on my own but it wasn’t terrible.

Now, there are some YouTubers she likes that I can’t stand watching, but we found one I can tolerate and it made her THE HAPPIEST KID IN THE WORLD that I was watching it with her! I do think some YouTubers are problematic, we are stricter with Wesley and YouTube because there’s so much misogyny in the game world. I don’t suggest letting your kid watch YouTube unregulated – even with parental controls on – unless you check in periodically. BUT! If you have a YouTube kid, maybe find something you can enjoy WITH them. 

I’ve had a harder time connecting with Wesley. We did find some YouTube videos about Fortnite we both liked. And he plays this game – Rocket League or something – that is a fun soccer/car game that I’ll watch him play and let him explain to me sometimes. But most of the times? Video games are something I really struggle with connecting over. 

Of course I’d love them both to spend time watching the Green Brothers or the Try Guys on YouTube – my favorites. And I wish they’d read YA fiction or do bullet journaling. But if they’re not, I need to make sure I remember that Dad was ALWAYS frustrated with how I spent MY time and that was before the internet. This is nothing new. It’s not the internet’s fault or social media’s fault. I spent more time talking on the phone as a teenager than either kid spends on social media.  And I was gossiping and trash talking and basically doing anything I could to make myself feel better. So if you’re frustrated with how your kid is spending their time, it’s okay. So was my Dad.

NOW! If the problem falls under the second category, then we need to dig deeper because the problem is not YouTube or Fortnite. Our instinct is to BLAME the thing they’re focusing on. “My kid’s school work is terrible because of Fortnite!” (Something I said at least 10 times last year. ) But really, the focus should be on what is NOT getting done. Wes really struggles with school and but we have learned it doesn’t matter what he’s doing in his “spare” time. The activity he’s doing INSTEAD of school changes and adapts but the school problems remain. So…we focus on school related solutions. Different schedules, adjusting our goals, helping him find motivation etc.

I feel like this would have been helpful for my Dad if there had been the language and the information like this available to help him. I was disconnecting from my family which – I now know – represented a deeper problem. I was struggling with anxiety and depression.  I think if health or relationships or school is suffering, then THOSE things require the focus and not the games/youtube/social media they’re ingesting WHILE they neglect those things. It’s easier to focus on the games (TRUST ME, MY KID IS A GAMER AND MY HUSBAND IS A GAMER AND I SWEAR TO GOD I HATE IT ALL) but I’m learning that if my concern is actually related to what’s being NEGLECTED then it’s more productive to focus on that. 

But…if nothing is really being neglected? Then unfortunately I’m just suffering what every parent from every generation suffers: FRUSTRATION ABOUT KIDS THESE DAYS AND WHY THEY WASTE THEIR TIME ON THAT ROCK MUSIC AND THOSE SOCK HOPS!

And not that those concerns should be ignored. Some YouTubers are shit and your kid watching too much shit could really have detrimental effect on their development. Some games are too violent in my opinion. Social media can be terrible. I mean, we definitely don’t want to give our kids 100% freedom on the internet just because they’re meeting all of their other obligations, but we need to accept that every generation has a “THING” they complain about their kids doing and it will be something different when our kids are parents. 

So, we try our best to stay aware and try to connect about those things so we can still have things to talk about at mealtime. We try to find ways to be interested so those moments spent on the internet don’t have to be moments spent away from us. And we hope…SOME DAY…they’ll find bullet journaling as we do.

Or maybe that that last one is just me. 

One Comment

  • Beth Edwards

    I spent too much time watching TV,my sister on the phone. My daughter read romance novels when she wasn’t at dance or school or doing the homework that took her forever. For several years I had neighbor kids at my house daily for at least a couple hours. The 2 older ones watched hours of make-up videos. At the time , A wanted to be a band director. Heart set on it. She graduated from HS last December and is at Paul Mitchell school and will go to Calhoun to study business when she is done. Her main interest is you guessed it, doing make-up. She was actually doing her friends make-up for special occasions their last 2 years of HS. All kids waste time- All people waste time, . We need rests to do mindless things. Is child 3 hasn’t been evaluated for ADHD or specific learning problems, that might be a good idea. My daughter got good grades but struggled getting the work done. Even me the teacher did not pick up on the fact she had ADHD until she was in college and I was going to workshops where they were saying girls with ADHD fall through the cracks- and know what- it can be hereditary and she got it from Me. I want diagnosed until 4 years ago. Looking back I can see what it meant to my development and schoolwork.