Teens Tied to Tech

School is in full swing and your teens are busier than ever. Between team practices, club meetings and homework, you’re lucky to get a word in edgewise with them. When you do finally come together in the same place at the same time and can catch up, you find yourself competing with the constant chirp of their incoming texts, the latest YouTube video shared by a friend and the social media site that must be updated. Another chance for real connection among the people you care about most has been derailed.

Absorbed in technology

Mobile devices, streaming video, social media…the opportunities to plug in are ever-present and the time teens spend being connected to some form of technology is astounding. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that young people devote more than seven hours a day to media use.

“We’re the first generation of parents who had to deal with this problem and there’s no precedent,” says Angela Hursh, mother of two. Lily, 15, has a smartphone and loves watching design and makeup tutorials online. Ella, 11, has an iPad and enjoys videos on horseback riding and veterinary care. Like many parents, Hursh often worries about the amount of time her daughters spend on their devices. This is a legitimate concern, as The American Academy of Pediatrics links excessive media exposure to behavioral problems, trouble in school, obesity and lack of sleep.

“Part of the challenge is really in defining what is ‘normal’ and, presumably, healthy and what is ultimately disordering or unhelpful,” says Matthew V. Auciello, MSW, LISW, school-based therapist at the Children’s Home of Cincinnati. “Boredom becomes a trigger for using the iPad, anxiety becomes a trigger for checking Facebook, sadness becomes a trigger for turning on the TV,” he says. For some, the slightest discomfort is dealt with by turning to a device instead of addressing an issue directly.

Setting new priorities

With technology having such a tight hold on our kids’ attention, how can we encourage them to step away from their screens and see the advantages of “living in the moment”? Here are few suggestions for achieving a better balance.

Understand the time and place for tech

Begin by setting clear limits and letting your kids know when it’s appropriate to use their device and when it’s not. Auciello advises parents to have kids avoid screen time during activities that are meant for connecting with others, like dinner time. Hursh says the policy in her family is “no screen time until homework is done.”

Go “old school” with a screen-free weekend

Challenge your family to spend a couple of days without their devices. Ask for their suggestions on activities that interest them. At the end of the weekend, talk to your kids about what they may have learned about their dependence on technology and what kind of effect spending their time in other ways had on them.

Exchange tech experiences for similar “real” experiences

If you want to be successful at reducing your child’s media consumption, you’ve got to replace it with something that is equally interesting to them. If your son is a gamer for example, see if getting a ping pong or card game tournament going can be an alternative to a weekend glued to Xbox.

Realize the personal toll technology takes

Talk to kids about how excessive screen time makes them feel – relaxed or frazzled? Energized or depleted? Contrast this with how getting outside, being physically active or having a great conversation with a friend makes them feel. Also discuss how being in the presence of someone distracted by their device affects their relationship with that person.

What’s the best way to get your kids to change their technology-dependency? Show them how it’s done. Resist the urge you have to constantly answer your phone, check social media sites and isolate yourself in the myriad ways that technology now allows all of us to do. Let your children see how you value face-to-face relationships and in-person experiences over digital ones and they will begin to see the benefits of managing their tie to technology too.

Similar Articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


From our Sponsors