Ana Homayoun: The Game Plan

Photo by Angelo Moleele on Unsplash

"It is hard to know sometimes how our life has changed until we stop for a moment and look at how different it is from ten or even five years ago. In recent years, social media, more than anything else, has significantly impacted most of our daily lives.”

Social media has become one of the dominant ways we communicate, gather and share information.

Whether we like it or not, the newfound reality is that we are all engulfed in this new world of communication due to technology — and if we haven’t done so already, we are all being forced to learn a new language of how to best navigate a world dominated by social media not only for ourselves but also for our children.

For most teens, social media networks are how they interact, participate in casual conversations, break-up relationships and even bypass the development of much needed interpersonal skills.

If you’re a parent who has struggled with creating digital balance amidst a barrage of intended and unintended effects of social media, that’s where Ana Homayoun comes into the picture.

She helps families find balance in their digital life.

Growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley and now traveling to schools all over the country advising about digital wellness, Ana Homayoun, a noted teen and millennial expert, school consultant, speaker and educator, is the author of three books including her most recent, Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World.

Often referred to as the “teen whisperer,” Ana helps teens and tweens thrive — not just survive in their young lives.

Here is our discussion on how families can create balance in their digital life:

BJB: What led you to write about the social media wellness of kids?

AH: In 2007, I was featured in the New York Times about my work with disorganized boys. It was from that feature that I got my first book deal for That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life.

When I was conducting research for my second book, The Myth of the Perfect Girl: Helping Our Daughters Find Authentic Success in School and Life, technology was starting to pop up everywhere.

At that time, I talked with middle and high school girls who told me (1) they watched The Bachelor for relationship advice, and (2) they were on these anonymous websites where they had profiles. This was back in the day of They talked about their profiles where people were posting mean comments, but they didn’t think it was affecting them. One girl revealed she was in therapy because of low self-esteem but did not link (her low self-esteem) to the fact that people were writing disturbing comments about her.

I thought, “This is really interesting. I need to learn the language of social media and I need to learn it fast.”

Being in Silicon Valley, many of the schools I worked with were bringing technology into the classroom and this raised issues that no one had a plan to deal with. I pointed this out to administrators and teachers and then began to coordinate a plan with them.

The central focus of my work is based on the following question:

How do we help give kids the tools to intrinsically make better choices when adults are not watching?

I also work with families. Not too long ago, I had a student come into my office who struggles in school and has some learning issues, but is also highly charismatic and sweet. During the session, I asked her to take out her phone so we could look at her screen-time usage.

She spent over 50 hours on her phone in one week; 35 of those hours were on Snapchat and Instagram.

She and I walked through the basic strategies she could put in place, like turning off the phone at a certain hour and also using Screen Time to shut down apps after a certain amount of usage or at a predetermined time. I use this as well and everyone in the family can do this. For parents, an important factor is how you model behavior.

You can also suggest kids ask themselves the following:

“Is your social media use working for you?”
Photo by Rahul Chakraborty on Unsplash

But if you find yourself scrolling mindlessly, procrastinating, then you might consider adjusting your behavior.

With the constant comparison culture, kids are having a harder time figuring out who they are and what they like to do, what they want to try or where their intrinsic ability shines the most. We can give them the tools to think about and build awareness if h