Our relationship with technology is complex and layered. This is especially true for teens immersed in the digital world, and their parents, who struggle to answer “How much screen time is too much?” If this is something you’ve wondered lately, you are not alone–this question was examined in the media all summer! Since I know you are busy, I’m sharing the takeaways. Here are sane, implementable screen time tips for back to school and beyond.
Do-able Screen Time Tips:
- Instead of inspiring fear as we hand them smartphones, teach them responsible online behavior. Make time to discuss the 3 C’s of technology: Conduct, Contact, and Content. (These make good car-ride discussions.)
- Conduct is how they treat others (think cyber-bullying and nasty comments)
- Contact is understanding that there are various creeps who may contact you. If they are asking for personal information, it’s a problem.
- Content is what you text or share. It means it’s public. Before you hit post or send, remember this.
- Teens are over-scheduled and being on their phones is their down-time. We have to accept that, and we don’t necessarily have to fear it…
- However, teaching teens about their relationship to technology is on us. This does not come in the form of constantly demanding that they “Get off the phone and look me in the eye!” Teens need to become familiar with their “why,” a concept that is totally foreign to those born with a tech appendage…
- And they also need boundaries for phone use. At the very least, take their phones away at night for sleep’s sake…
- But when you do, reassure them that you will not read their messages. Privacy and trust is something teens value and respond well to. I suggest a timed safe.
- For some teens, the phone is a lifeline to connection that doesn’t exist in their “real” lives. As a parent it’s tempting to judge the quality of these friendships, but I recommend holding your tongue. Teens take these online relationships seriously and they are not to be undermined. Teens want to be validated. Also, they have radars for anything perceived as judgement!
- Even for social kids, there is a correlation with screens and isolation. This article went viral this summer. It’s worth a read though the data may be skewed. There is a growing trend of kids in their separate spaces communicating online. It may motivate you to partner with friends and members of your community to get your kids out of their rooms and with each other.
- All of us benefit from tech-free time. Schedule a day-long activity that is social this month and as much as possible.
- Kids are like clay. They are being shaped largely by what they experience. If you the parent is on your phone a lot, don’t be surprised when they are distracted by their phones. (It’s like that old Cat Stevens song “Cats in the Cradle”? The gist is that the father has no time for the kid, and when the father finally does, the kid blows him off.)
We are all in this experiment of humans with hand-held devices. Having an escape route in your pocket is way too tempting for all of us! It’s not just teens who act like fools with their phones: I almost hit a grown-ass man in a suit who stepped into traffic without looking up the other day! But kids CAN be taught how to approach technologically consciously and thoughtfully. I’ve said before, don’t expect teens to know how to do any of this on their own, but model it for them and trust that they can learn. Perhaps eventually they will even answer a question on the first try!
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