Are you a parent of a teen?  Have you often found yourself talking to the wall because it seems to be his or her head is always on their phone? Are you familiar with all the social media apps they use in their daily life? I personally cannot say, “I do!” However, I have to say I recently discovered TikTok and I can now tell you I see why they block us and the world around them so much!

As the stay at home orders came through, I found myself like every other parent in the world with a lot of time on my hands. At first I started working on projects around the house (happy to report we got them all done). Second, I started to work out twice as much as I did before and am happy to report my six pack is back! 

But that is not why I am sharing this with you. It all started one evening as I found myself watching a very entertaining workout video on Facebook. Yes, you know the virtual place us adult parents are more familiar with and are usually at? I clicked on the video and it took me to TikTok. It was a very entertaining routine and if I may say inspiring me and challenging in a fun and productive way!

I was curious and wanted to see more so I looked up for the app on the AppleStore and right before I hit “download” I took a pause and asked my kids if they knew what “TikTok” was. The teens immediately responded and said “Why? Do you have an account? Tell me you don’t!” My first reaction was “Why wouldn’t you want me to have one?” They both replied saying to just stay away.

Naturally after hearing that, I downloaded the app! And oh mine! Was I in for a surprise?! First of all let me tell you, our teens are not just staring at their phone! They are in fact interacting with all kinds of people from around the world! Second, as much as I have concluded time after time that smartphones are to blame for a lack of activity, after navigating some of those videos and challenges, they are far from just sitting around!

Those dancing and workout challenges are crazy intense! And not easy to master at all! I am pretty sure teens are spending hours and hours rehearsing until they get it right! No wonder they refuse to get up in the morning when we wake them up!

I would bet they were probably up late into the night getting it just right! Last but not least, it isn’t all about “dumb teenage talk.” There are some serious topics going on! Sure, you can watch all kinds of silly things as one would expect to do so, but there is also just as much when it comes to the cultural and political conversations around the world. There are tutorials about photography, cooking and yes stupid daring stuff! But don’t we find that everywhere anyways?

The one thing that truly caught my attention was when I noticed the inspiring stories about youth who have survived crises or have achieved success in their very own ways. I  discovered survivor stories and awareness pieces that have a very unique way of touching the teenage mind, probably a lot more effectively than any ad or campaign we adults could create to help or use to give advice on sensitive topics that youth need to hear about.

I also confirmed the dangers of what a cyber world opens up for teens across the world, but I have to admit, the benefits are much greater than the risks. I guess what I am trying to say is to all teens out there, I am sorry I misjudged your inclination for social media apps.

After having learned what this specific app is about, I have to admit as a parent I was pretty ignorant, but now I am not, so I figured if I was ignorant, I am pretty sure there are other parents like me out there and I had to share the news with them as well!  And let me tell you, I am a technology-oriented parent! Much more advanced! So to say that I discovered TikTok is a big surprise even to me!

What I do want to follow with is that I am proud to see that our future leaders are global minds! They are creative, they are driven and they are growing in a very different world than the one you and I grew up in.

The amount of diversity found in the daily interactions they have in social media, I have to say are much more than what they will ever find by staying in the bubble our neighborhoods can sometimes be about.

Yes, I am still concerned there are individuals who use these platforms for bad, but that’s where we adults and parents come in!

As parents I believe we have the responsibility to become familiar with the tools our children use, especially when they can place them in contact with the wrong person on the other side of the line.

But let us not make the mistake of taking opportunities away from kids by prohibiting technology or anything of its likes. We must remain mindful that the world has changed. And while most of us would like to stay in our comfortable place and not have to deal with TikTok or Snapchat, I have to admit preventing our children from participating could be the wrong thing for some kids. 

No, I am not advocating for social media; I am advocating for hands-on parenting on this piece and part of that is understanding what our children have at their disposal to help them grow in their daily lives.

We must support our children and the way they communicate and express themselves. By doing our part to become familiar with the apps they use it will help us remain vigilant without being intrusive or taking the experience away.

Yes, it sounds easier said than done, but trust me, I believe it  is the right thing. 

Again, our kids cannot be raised the way you and I were. It could backfire and make them feel inadequate if they are not progressing along with the world they live in.

Not long ago I wrote about how my two older kids were only allowed 20 minutes of screen time growing up and how in comparison their younger sister got much more than that. Let me give you a little bit more insight. My oldest daughter is 12 years older and my middle child is 10 years older than my youngest.

Having raised kids in two “different times” I can tell you this, having access to a smartphone with apps does not “dumb” your kid down if balanced right. Yes, of course the old ways can still work, but as a parent we must not hold our children back!

If we choose to raise them the “old way” we, in my opinion, are taking the easy way to avoid a part of the current parenting experience and avoiding doing our part, which, yes, is additional work to make sure the experience is safe and sound.

With that said, I do have to admit, TikTok is addicting! I assume so are other apps! But, at the same time, I believe that with the right support, it can be managed just like not eating too much ice cream or candy all day and all night. By becoming familiar with social media apps and even using it from time to time, we will be better prepared and will have an understanding of what their functions’ dynamics are. And in turn, we will be able to do better at supporting our children’s fun as much as intervening if it gets out of hand.

Having said that, I am going to end by sharing with you that by experiencing and discovering TikTok and I am sure other apps not only will you be learning how to do modern-day parenting right, but you will also be encouraging your child to explore the world through mental, physical and creative experiences and while doing so as you try the things they learn there as well, you will get a kick and even have some fun!

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