Tik Tok Challenge
Updated: Jun 8
One of the biggest challenges we face as parents these days is managing the time our kids spend on technology and digital media. How do we strike the balance between moderation and addiction? Are they playing a game? Scrolling through a social media site? Texting? Facetiming? It's accessible all the time. It is the epitome of instant gratification. It's relentless.
It is also not going anywhere so how do we teach them the benefits of it without abusing it and understanding the dangers of it. Great questions we all ask ourselves and we do our best to answer. Let's be honest folks, as adults, we struggle with the same questions when it comes to our own personal use. We say all day... "lead by example," but often get caught going down the same rabbit hole.
I grew up very differently. As a teenager I worked after school and weekends. I barely watched TV and if I did it was sitting down with friends or family to watch a movie. I didn't have a phone and had to compete with phone time on the old landline to call a friend which was never worth it. I read lots of books, magazines, and occasionally newspapers. If my daughter was reading this as I type she would be rolling her eyes. She doesn't care about my prehistoric upbringing so much, but I feel strongly it helps to give perspective, so I never let an opportunity go by to remind her or my son.
Let's set the stage, a report by Common Sense Media found that:
1 in 4 teens is a heavy social media user, using at least two different types of social media each day.
51% of teens visit social networking sites on a daily basis
More than a third of teens visit their main social networking site several times a day.
Every day is different around my home depending on the level of busy but we are but we do have rules that we hold to 99% of the time to help manage technology access and time. Examples: monitoring screen time, blocking certain sites, setting timers for video game time, and putting phones away at a certain time at night. These are all effective but it's the "other" times of day that we get lost. I will often leave my office after a long day and look for the kids and find my daughter on her bed scrolling on her phone.
"How long have you been here?"
"I don't know"
Homework is done, she hit her bed to chill and it literally could have been 30 minutes or 2 hours. She has no clue. So we check the time and gently nudge her up. She moves on to something different and puts the phone aside at request.
This can be a full time job! What I want is to teach her to self regulate. Too much to ask? After the Tik Tok Challenge, I don't think so.
So this brings me to my intent for this blog. My husband came up with a challenge for her:
- $5 for each day you do not go on Tik Tok
- Make it 7 full days and you get a $15 bonus
- If you make it, that is $50 in your pocket
My daughter is very motivated by money. She actually hesitated. This was the first indication this was needed. After some reluctance she agreed and actually asked me to block Tik Tok from her phone so she was not tempted. Well played.
I had her keep a daily log of how it was going. She completed the full 7 days. What did we all get out of it? Here were the observations from both perspectives.
Day 1 - The first night were in awe of her level of engagement. She was not in her bedroom and hanging out with us more. She was restless for sure and commented repeatedly she was bored but she found things to do...... she re-organized her bathroom. For reals. She used words in her log like Restless, Agitated, Annoyed, Bored.
Day 2 - pretty similar, less complaining of boredom. Went on an evening walk with me and the dogs. Started studying early for finals.
Day 3 - she wrote, " It was better today than yesterday. I was not too tempted to watch Tik Tok."
Day 4 - I was literally spending more time with my daughter! She was productive and hanging around more. It was great! She did not seem bored and was on her phone considerably less overall.
Day 5 - she wrote, "Today felt good without Tik Tok. I never once felt the need to open it." She used words to describe her mood as Happy, Normal, Alive.
Day 6 - I am in awe of the overall impact on phone use and overall engagement around the house. I find myself being extra careful to not be on my phone at all when she is around.
Day 7 - she wrote, "It felt good to do this challenge and I am really proud of myself. I saw the real world without Tik Tok and it felt really good."
No words for how that made us feel. What started as something so simple was such a valuable lesson for us all. I asked her what SHE learned, "I learned that Tik Tok isn't really useful and just wastes time."
Just wastes time. The THING we said on repeat but was not really understood until she had the experience of living without it.
I would have paid $500 for that... but don't tell her.
The only question left was...... will she still go on Tik Tok?
I fully expected she would but my hope is that with some gentle nudging, she will be able to better self regulate. We discussed ways to limit the time like setting an alarm when she sits down to chill and scroll. 30 minutes and then put it away and move on. We are a week out from the end of the challenge and her overall phone time is significantly reduced still. She tole me she does go on Tik Tok but she does a quick scroll and moves on. So far no zombie like scrolling while laying in bed or on couch.
What will this do for us in the long term? Time will tell but it was a worthy experiment for all of us. It gave her the ability to monitor her own behavior and gain perspective through her own experiences. The impact of that will be far more reaching than anything we can say. When all is said and done, I did not grow up like my kids. They have a unique perspective and being engaged in this experience with her was an incredible reminder of what we ALL have to offer when it comes to navigating this crazy world we live in.