September 17, 2018

Teens and Screens: How to Temper the Effects of Their Online Life

Written by Rachel Eddins

Posted in Parenting & Family and with tags: parenting, social media, teens

Teenager staring at her phone

Teens and technology seem to be an inseparable couple. In fact, it seems nearly impossible to find a teen anywhere willing to digitally disconnect for very long. Yet, while it can be alarming to see how pervasive the internet and social media have become, the key is to look at your son or daughter’s life in total. And before you overreact to the bowed head and “huh?” response that usually follow your attempts to engage in conversation, consider the pros and cons of their online life.

How to temper the effect of teen's online lifeAfter all, for decades, teens have absorbed themselves in some piece of new-fangled tech that served to highlight the generation gap between them and their parents and teen. What tech did you hide with in your room? A pile of records? A WalkMan and headphones? A telephone that rang and had an extra long cord so you walk from one end of the room to another?  Or a phone without a cord that went all static if you tried to walk outside? Your parents probably complained about your immersion too. Some of this is normal. Expect a bit of adolescent absorption.

However, the primary difference–and danger–in this age is that normal teenage immersive behavior is constantly fed by the whole world. The mixtape never runs out and someone’s always on the other line. So, it’s your job to take notice and help them put on the mental, emotional, and relational brakes for their own well being.

Support your teen with the development of self-control and wise decision-making

Remember that you have the right to temper, supervise, and direct your teen’s screen time. Encourage critical thinking and responsibility You are completely within your rights to support screen time that is beneficial and productive while establishing limits to ward off harmful influences.

How do you do that?  What does it take to help strike the tech balance with and for your teen?

Well, first, attempts to temper your teen’s online life will be largely ineffective if the quality of your relationship and communication don’t support them.

Genuinely connect

  • Clarify that you love and trust your teen. Commit to fairness and an open mind. Be respectful of their choices and need for increasing independence. This helps pave the way for honest, two-way discussions about their screen time.
  • Keep unproductive conflict over screen limits to a minimum by acknowledging how important technology is to your teen. However, don’t fail to set and hold boundaries firmly.
  • Maintain a clear picture of your teen’s online life. Look at how your teen might be affected negatively by onscreen life and routinely offer your help as concerns arise.

Encourage and balance your teen’s social engagement, involvement, awareness, and personal development online and in real-time.

Praise your teen for their responsible online life. Also, encourage him or her to continue routine offline interaction. Make a practice of suggesting your teen make time for dinner invitations, sleepovers, group study sessions, etc so that real-world friendships aren’t overwhelmed by social media. Furthermore, be cognizant of your own interactions on screen and off.  Modeling respect and empathy is always good for your child.

Protect your teen from social media negativity, risky interactions, and out-of-bounds vulnerability.

Your teen’s brain is still growing and developing. Internet immediacy might be problematic without adult input or supervision. Therefore, help them employ their screens to avoid many negative consequences or regrets. Try the following:

Remind your teen to think critically about social media and practice self-compassion.

  • Invite them to ask questions rather than be sucked in by false images depicted on the screens.

Set time limits.

  • Keep phones out of the bedroom overnight and reserve the right to reduce phone time if you notice negative behavior, fear, or stress tied to the phone.

Make sure your teen protects their offline privacy, location, reputation, and interactions.

  • Don’t count out a media filter for your computers, tablets, and phones. Some extra electronic oversight can be a good thing.

Remind your teen that honesty and common sense are vital.

  • Discuss how stressful it can be to represent themselves one way online and another offline.

Encourage your teen’s use of the Internet for a holistic worldview.

  • Keep a close eye on their online life and discuss it routinely. This fosters his or her ability to take in information critically and intelligently.

Most of all, it’s important to remember that the internet can be an effective means of exploration and self-discovery for teens.  If you offer guidance, you can support connections mindfully, safely and with maturity, you’ll both have less to worry about.

Learn More with Help from a Therapist

If you feel you need help connecting with your teen or growing as a family unit contact us in Houston. Eddins Counseling Group offers services in teen and family counseling. Call us at 832-559-2622  for more information or book an appointment online.

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