By: Tim Elmore
How One Mom Kept Her Teen Off Social Media for Six Years
If you watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, you know firsthand the challenges of social media platforms today. The documentary allows viewers to hear tech experts sound the alarm on the dangerous impact of social networking which Silicon Valley tech companies manipulate and influence. The film explains how social media works like a slot machine in Las Vegas—very enticing and very addictive. And our body chemicals react to it.
One mother, Lorna Klefsaas, saw firsthand what these platforms were doing to her three high school daughters. They struggled with FOMO, with filters and comparisons, and one of them even wrestled with depression and anxiety as a result. Lorna wanted something different for her son, Sivert.
That’s when she made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
A Social Media Challenge
One day, Lorna sat down with her 12-year-old son in their kitchen and casually tossed out a challenge. She said, “Siv, would you ever consider staying off social media until you were 18 if I paid you $1,800?” She chose $1,800 because he had to stay off until his 18th birthday.
Her sixth-grade son thought: Seriously? You’d pay me to avoid it?
Sivert immediately accepted her challenge. He later reflected, “I accepted it because it was so much money! I probably hadn’t had more than ten dollars in my whole life. So, $1,800 sounded like a fortune. I remember thinking I would have enough money to buy a house and a car!”
The brilliance of Lorna’s offer is clear:
- It was a large amount of money, but something she could save up for in six years.
- Having never used social media yet, Sivert found it easier to say “no” to the platforms.
- He could enter high school focused on priorities that really mattered.
In fact, her son said, “It wasn’t like I had to give something up—I just had to not start.”
This is the key. It’s easier to refrain from bad habits before you start them than to stop them after they become entrenched.
Motivated by the promise of money, the challenge proved easy at first. By the time Sivert reached his junior and senior years of high school, however, it became more difficult. First, he realized there were social inconveniences. He had to ask his friends to fill him in on the interactions he was missing. Second, he realized in his teen years that $1,800 isn’t as large a sum as he first assumed it was. Finally, Sivert found that when he met new people, they’d ask for his Snapchat. When he told them he didn’t have an account, they didn’t know what to say. He had to get creative to stay in touch.
But this teen stuck with it.
The good news is—Sivert learned to live a life that was free from the addiction of social media. His friends knew about the challenge and admired him for it. They kept him updated on the things he missed online. By the time he entered his junior year of high school, he felt he was too close to the goal to stop. He was determined to finish, to reach the target and win his prize. As an 18-year-old, he said it was “a matter of pride.”
It was also a matter of mental health.
Lorna looks back over the last six years and believes the impact of his commitment has been “tremendous.” Not only was he spared the drama of social media during high school; it also afforded him the extra time to focus on his studies and athletics, both of which he excelled in because he wasn’t distracted by time spent on social media. He did not struggle with mental health problems; he was focused on academics and sports, and is now ready to enter college in much better shape than most graduates. Sivert’s mom says he is a good conversationalist, makes eye contact, and is engaged with the people around him. As a student, he graduated number one in his class. As an athlete, he scored his 1,000th point in basketball his senior year and he rushed for over 2,000 yards in high school football. Lorna is extremely proud of her son.
On his 18th birthday, she walked into her son’s room and handed him an $1,800 check.
Both Lorna and her teen son agree: The rewards far outweighed the sum she paid him. He is proud of himself for staying off those addictive platforms. And she is proud of the results he achieved by doing something else with his time.
What’s that worth to you?
I am not suggesting we must duplicate this monetary reward system. I am suggesting, however, that we find a way to challenge our young people to trade social media for something far more valuable. What could you do?