The smartphone vibrates, the familiar message tone sounds, you immediately reach for the device and absolutely have to know who is writing. Teenagers feel like they’re constantly checking to see if they’ve received new text or voice messages, or if they’ve received comments and likes on social media posts. This may sound familiar to you as a parent, and you may have the impression that at some moments nothing is more important to your child than his or her smartphone. It is a very typical phenomenon – not only among young people. This phenomenon even has a name: FOMO stands for “Fear of missing out” and describes the fear of missing out or not noticing something.
Communicating via messenger services and social media is very important for young people to maintain friendships, communicate and test the effect on others. Experiences and adventures are shared, conflicts are fought out, first infatuations and relationships are experienced. With the smartphone, young people can do this independently, unobserved by adults and in a self-determined manner. But of course, this can also lead to a feeling of stress if you think you have to be constantly available and react quickly to messages. Group chats play a special role in this.
When using messenger services in a group, especially “class chat,” special challenges arise once again. Because your child naturally wants to know what is happening and being discussed there when digital communication takes place after and before school or on the weekend. For children who are not allowed to be present here, the feeling of being completely left out quickly arises because they do not hear a large part of the class discussions. For those who are there, class chats often mean a lot of messages, even late at night and still or early in the morning. The stress and pressure of being there and getting behind, being able to respond to what is written, can feel great and burdensome.
Rules for using such group or class chats can help: Agree on times when your child will use them. However, agreements reached should primarily be about how to deal with each other in such chats. Important: The issue affects not only your family, but everyone in your child’s class. Therefore, it is best to discuss the topic at parents’ evening or seek a conversation with the parents of school friends.
The basic question applies to all of us, young people and adults alike: How can smartphones and especially messengers be used more consciously? In studies, young people themselves even say that they feel stressed or annoyed when friends or parents constantly look at their smartphones. We adults must be role models for a conscious use of digital media here. This also includes talking openly in the family about why it is so important for us to always react quickly and not want to miss anything, for example because we are then excited and feel a sense of happiness. Together as a family, consider what can be done to relieve some of the stress and create space. For example, you can think together about when to simply put the smartphone away or set the flight mode so that one is not always immediately notified – whether it is at dinner, movie night, bedtime, etc. Support and motivate your child to discuss the topic with friends or in school classes.