Until about two decades ago, parents had little to worry about when it came to bringing up their kids. As long as younger kids stayed away from strangers, teenagers didn’t sneak off in the middle of the night to house parties or date the wrong people, everything was fine. However, as the rate of advances in technology began to skyrocket over the past decade, so did the complexity of dealing with kids, especially teenagers.
Teenagers and kids, in general, became increasingly addicted to technology. PCs, Macs, and gaming consoles became must-have pieces of technology at home, with kids spending hours on end on their devices. The entry of smartphones and tablets over the past few years has added on to the woes of many parents and families in the digital age. Increased screen time has been associated with various developmental challenges, including health, societal, and psychological deficiencies. Exposure to the internet from a young age has also increased cases of cyberbullying across the globe.
So, faced with a modern problem, how can parents help their kids to manage screen time in the face of social media and an active internet community? It is important to remember that not all screen time is bad, as long as teenagers mix time on their devices and other healthy behaviors away from these devices.
As a parent, there are a couple of things you can do to help the situation. Check out this list of the most popular tips for helping your teenage kid manage their screen time.
1. Encourage Balance, not Restrictions
When most parents discover that their teenage kids are screen junkies, they tend to have an adverse knee-jerk response that often results in tight restrictions, wild emotions, and a combative mood around the house. While excess screen time may be unhealthy for kids of any age, some screen time may be necessary for teens. So instead of locking away every gadget around the house, it is best to moderate the amount of time that kids spend on their media devices.
Encourage them to participate in other activities away from their devices, especially if you suspect screen time is interfering with other facets of their lives. And because teens are more likely to open up than younger kids, start a discussion about their screen habits and encourage them to find balance.
2. Get Involved
Kids and teens often get their screen usage habits from an older adult, usually a parent. Most parents always find it difficult to put the tablet, laptop, or smartphone down, a trait that is copied by kids and teens back at home. Setting a good example will not only help your kids cut down on media use, but will also help establish healthy media habits around the house.
You can also get directly involved in the type of media they consume. Watch their favorite movies or TV series with them or pick up a gamepad and indulge in a one-on-one drag race on their game consoles. This way, they will know you understand their issues when you tell them they need to cut down on screen time.
Establish screen time rules together and give them a chance to come up with their own screen schedules. This will also help them become responsible teenagers and adults in future.
3. Plan Tech-free Vacations
Believe or not, there are still vacation spots that are too remote for cellular and internet connectivity. Some spots even take away your devices when you check in, which can be a good way for the whole family to tune off. Most kids and teens won’t readily lay down their devices so make sure you set your foot down as a parent on this one.
You can also pick out vacation spots that make it difficult to use phones and tablets. Activities such as biking, windsurfing, and most water sports make it virtually impossible to use their devices.
4. Establish Media-free Zones in the House
The house is often the biggest crime scene when it comes to media overuse. Most teenage rooms are normally stocked with the latest in gadgetry – from the latest PlayStation console to HD TVs. Set clear rules to guide the time and place that media devices can be used. For instance, you can ban media usage in the bedroom, at the dinner table, or when the kids are doing homework.
Making the adjustments to media habits around the house will undoubtedly be an uphill task, especially if your teenage kids have carried on their bad media habits from early childhood. Still, it’s always better to be late than never. If poor screen habits aren’t rectified, they can spill over into adulthood where they can have much more drastic effects on a young adult’s life.