What are You Doing About Teenagers and Technology?
If you have teenagers, then you have probably had a conversation, or struggle, around technology. It is virtually impossible to extract your teenager from the technology around them. For most of them grew up tethered to some type of device. In fact they like to use the term “digital native” due to their innate ability to navigate technology. While this attitude toward technology might make it challenging to cut the cord, there are some things you can do to make tech time more manageable. And for good reason.
Article after article produced lately shows how destructive phones and technology can be on teenagers. It is a wide known fact most tech executives in Silicon Valley severely limit the time their own children spend on electronics (http://read.bi/2EptO2J). Recently 2 Apple Board Members wanted more to be done about the “toxic” nature of the phones they produce (http://on.wsj.com/2EvPyc2). Social media use and the rise of depression and suicide among teens has also been brought to the forefront in the last few years (http://ti.me/2rQWzTo).
This issue will not get better on its own and unless we decide to move out to the middle of nowhere we have to first acknowledge there is a problem. Understand that our children are attempting to deal with a device their developing brains struggle to fully comprehend. And which keeps morphing and growing on a daily basis. Making it challenging to keep up with all the changes.
But if you would like to at least slow down the runaway train, there are some simple and practical steps you can take in order to bring your teens back into reality.
Build a Plan
The first way to combat this issue of unabashed technology use is to build a plan. The plan can start with some simple questions like:
Why do they get a phone?
What apps are they going to use and why?
How much time are they allowed on their phones?
Do they understand a phone is a privilege not a right?
If you can start with these parameters, it gives you the ability to shape their thinking around technology. You are laying down these ground rules before they get a phone or during times when there is not trauma or drama. Ideally if you can come to this point together to decide what is best it gives them ownership of what they approaching.
Create Some Barriers
Once you have created a plan you can use the plan to create some barriers around their technology use. Letting teenagers use their electronics freely and without any barriers can be dangerous at best. The barriers setup some guardrails to keep them focused and on the road. It also allows your teens to be able to understand when they are going outside the lines. Allowing them to do some possible self correction before things get out of hand.
The barriers can be around what apps are used, how much time is spent on devices, when they can and cannot be on them. This can also be not allowing phones in their rooms at night. No phones at dinner or other restrictions which will benefit them and the family. I understand this can be challenging but creating the barriers allows for restrictions and understanding around how they are using their time. The key will be to always be open to a conversation around what is happening and what they are doing. Let them vent their frustrations and struggles. Invite other family members or even their friends into the conversations to allow for freedom and understanding of what they are going through.
The best place to start with this exercise is to create alternatives. Our teenagers are so conditioned to go to their phone for boredom, information, or any of a thousand reasons. Expecting them to just put their phone down is like expecting a junky to give up their fix with no notice. Because let’s face it we are addicted to our phones. Early on create alternatives like games, books, conversations, family dinners, or simply the expectation we won’t look everything up are given. This will allow them to know what their options are instead of constantly going for their phones or technology every time they are bored.
This problem of technology is not going to go away and not going to lessen at any point. It is up to us as parents to create the parameters with which are children can function safely. The end result will be much better adjusted teenagers which benefits us all.
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