Teens and Technology

My body becomes alert with anticipation as I reach for my iPhone. “Is it an Instagram like? A Facebook comment? A Snap? A text?” My mind wonders with excitement and hope as the home button reads my fingerprint. Light appears on the screen and I’m given access to a virtual reality. To my dissapointment it is only the notification for high pollen alert on my weather app.

Have you felt this way too? I realize I have been conditioned by my Smartphone! When it rings, I come running. There has been a lot of talk about the potential dangers of excessive electronic use for teens and children. A colleague of mine sent me a wonderful article written by Jean M. Twenge entitled “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” I found The Atlantic article to be quite balanced in its view of electronics and the upcoming generation despite its scandalous title. The author ends the article with a caution stating “Significant effects on both mental health and sleep time appear after two or more hours a day on electronic devices. The average teen spends about two and a half hours a day on electronic devices. Some mild boundary-setting could keep kids from falling into harmful habits.”

Many parents know boundaries are necessary when giving children access to electronics. However, many are unsure of the best way to do it. I have listed out 6 principles to keep in mind when setting limits on electronics for your teen.

1. Use clear, concise communication. Long lectures do nothing for the parent-teen relationship and more times than not your teen has tuned you out, leaving you both feeling exacerbated.

2. Set up a family contract, see your teen as a contributing member to this contract and be open to their feedback.

3. Be consistent in implementing the agreed upon contract.

4. Model your own self-control in using electronics, this will be most impactful for your teen. Show them how you set limits for yourself, that will mean more to them than what you say.

5. If you have monitoring systems on their devices, this should be communicated to your teen from day one. Let them know from the beginning what your expectations are and how you will be monitoring them. Emphasize that the monitoring system is for their safety, not for a lack of trust in them. Being transparent and creating open lines of communication is essential during the teenage years.

6. Let them know you love them for who they are, no matter what.

Try being mindful of these six principles when setting limits with your teen. Remind yourself that you are only human, and raising a teenager is hard. If you would like more assistance in creating open communication with your teen, try family counseling at Heritage Behavioral Health Consultants.