What is Imaginary Audience and what’s it got to do with your teenager and social media?

With the COVID19 pandemic and the continuation of online homeschooling (PdPR) this year, I have had to give access to gadgets more frequently to my children. In nature, I am one of the parents who do not approve screen time for children – I do not install games to my smartphone, they are not informed of my smartphone’s passcode, and I reduce my own screen time at night when I am at home with them (to set an example).

Now, the new norm is online schooling (which basically is handing out homework online, with hopes that the students understand attached videos – though the teachers are not to blame here, mind you, they are just as beaten as parents are, but I blame the system’s response to the circumstances). I find myself obligated to hand smartphones for them to complete their homework on a daily basis. And now that they have access, they suddenly have freedom to explore more – surfing, Youtube, games, chatting with friends. And since all their other friends are doing it, too, I fear my previous control efforts will be futile.

In an effort to embrace this new norm while protecting my children, I am trying to understand more on what’s out there, and what I can do to make the best of the current situation.

Along the way, I came upon a book “Raising A Screen Smart Kid – Embrace the good and Avoid the Bad in the Digital Age” by Julianna Miner. This book starts with the same concerns as mine, over the dangers of early screen time in childhood. Although it is a little away from what I had hoped (I was looking for something for younger children (my children are in early elementary school, while this book was more to effects of social media to adolescents), it was indeed insightful. It begins with explaining about natural teenager psychology and self-esteem, peer pressure, facts about the social media and the effects, and moves on by how to protect them from dangerous online relationships, depression and anxiety, online bullying, digital addition, and so on.

While this article is not going to be a book review, there is an old concept which drew my attention.

This was the first time I come across the Imaginary Audience concept, introduced by David Elkind in 1967. The Imaginary Audience is the condition where adolescents believe that others are always watching and scrutinizing them. For example, a high school girl feels that everyone in school notices her new pimple, and are talking about it furiously, when in actual, no one really notices it, and even if they do, not everyone really cares.

Another concept is the Personal Fable, where teenagers believe that they are special and unique, but nobody understands them, and everything is awful. As teenagers, they tend to believe they are The One, hence the many teenager flicks play around teenage rebellion, and becoming heroes, such as Harry Potter, or Katniss Everdeen. “You don’t understand me!” sounds familiar, right?

These two notions have been studied in textbooks on adolescent development widely, and is thought to be the reasons for adolescents’ self-consciousness and risk-taking (thinking they are invincible). 

Raising A Screen Smart Kid points out, social media makes the Imaginary Audience become real. Whatever activities you are doing in social media (commenting, sharing etc) is seen by so many people, even globally, and can even create permanent damages. 

The book proceeds to give several tips on how to address this issue, how to prepare adolescents before they begin social media activities, or making mistakes that may leave a permanent scar. And the best part is how to actually use the social media to the advantage of the adolescents. You’ll have to read the book to find out (no, this not a paid advertisement).

I love this book because it explains the dangers and the whys, and finally suggests practical advise on how parents and help their adolescents avoid making mistakes, and instead, take advantage of the digital age.

No matter what the book says, there are still several general rules for screen time that is suggested by many professionals, among are:

  • Consider children’s level of maturity before starting screen time, evaluating his ability to response to the exposures on the internet and social media
  • Set time limits – all gadgets in parents’ room at bedtime
  • Parents must have passwords to all accounts

Parenting can be as tough as managing engineers at work…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: