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Parents and Teachers: Roll Back on the Eye Rolls

When it comes to talking about tech with your kids, try empathy instead
Eye roll emoji

In their quest to transform our relationship with technology, the Center for Digital Thriving, a new research center based at Project Zero, recently shared suggestions for parents and teachers on how to change the way they talk to their children and students about technology so that these conversations are not always a battle. One of the easiest pivots? Instead of rolling your eyes when you’re being ignored as a TikTok video blares from their phone, researchers at the center say to remember what it’s like being a teen. Here are three ways adults can begin having nuanced conversations about technology that strengthen rather than strain relationships with teens and yourself.

When it comes to chatting with teens (or anyone) about tech, one big game-changer is swapping eye rolls for empathy.

Instead of brushing off teens' attentiveness to group chats, Snap Maps, or TikTok dances, try stepping into their shoes. Remember the thrill of fitting in and the sting of feeling left out? For teens, those emotions are in turbo mode! Their online presence is often integral to their social lives. When you see the teens in your life using tech in ways that annoy you and your eyes start rolling upward, pivot toward empathy. Check in and ask them what’s going on. Validation like, “that sounds like fun” or “that must be tough” builds connection.

Wait! What about those instances that seem to absolutely deserve the deepest, longest eye roll? 

Like when your child doesn’t look up once from their tablet during dinner to talk with you. Or when your student is recording a video in the middle of your lesson. Eye-rolling might feel justified sometimes! But just trust us … there’s power in the pivot from eye rolling to empathy. It opens the door for coaching about tech habits, and it’s a chance to bond over those universal needs for friendship and belonging.

We need empathy as adults, too.

The ways we use technology also help us meet some of our core needs, like connection, stability, safety, entertainment, leisure, and rest. There may be times when you roll your eyes at yourself, like when you spent another night giggling at reels until 2 a.m. after you told yourself you wouldn’t do it again. Your self-talk around your tech use could possibly use an upgrade as well. When you feel tempted to huff about how much you’ve been on your devices, kindly ask yourself, “What’s hard for me right now? How is tech helping or hurting?”

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