Teens and technology… as a parent of a teen who grew up with a lot of screen time as a preteen, I understand full well the headache this can cause. When I was a child, my main source of entertainment was playing with friends in the neighborhood outside until my folks called me in for dinner.
Things are different these days. Now a child’s idea of fun is playing video games, text messaging, social media, and catching up on her favorite television shows. And this, besides the actual school work for which they need the computer. Ah well! I fully understand that technology is the “it” thing to do for teens, (IT = there’s a pun!) and with that, I try to respect my son’s activities without allowing technology to consume them all day long.
How to monitor teen screen time? This became a hot topic at one of our Mom-get-togethers.
But first, why monitor teen screen time?
Too much screen time causes serious health issues like depression, loneliness, physical brain damage, childhood obesity, unhealthy food habits, osteoporosis, sleep problems and stress, and of course anti-social behaviors. According to a recent study, teenagers who spend hours on an electronic device, including computers, cell phones, tablets or TVs tend to have more problems with sleeping at night. Specifically,
1. Too Much Screen Time means overweight teens – they’ll pack on those pounds even as you watch.
2. Texting on the cell phone means tired teens.
3. Violent video games can make your teen too tough for their own good.
4. Too Much TV is known to make teens depressed.
5. Texting and gaming can cause injury.
We don’t want that, do we?
Here are tips that we’ve pooled – that have worked:
One of the biggest pastimes for preteens is watching television. A common situation talking to a friend on the cellphone while watching a TV show discussing it as they watch it together. Strange? Well maybe it is, but to them it’s pretty normal. As parents we know that too much television is never good, so while it is okay to allow children to watch some of the shows they enjoy, it must be done within reason. Some suggestions to keep things under control are:
- Televisions in General Locations – There are so many different shows on television now that keeping up with teen trends can be hectic for a parent. So what to do? One way is avoid having a TV in their room. Place your TV in a common area in the house. If they want to watch something, let them come there. Whether it’s the family room, kitchen, or living room, it is easier to monitor what they are watching and instantly say something the moment you disagree with what is on the screen.
- Watch New Shows on Demand (Together) – Satellitetv-deals.com, a site that offers packages on Direct TV Kansas City, Santa Fe, Denver, and other Midwest cities, makes it possible to watch shows whenever you want through on demand services. When your child is interested in watching a new show try your best to watch the first few episodes together. This is a good way to keep up with what they are watching and decide whether or not it is appropriate.
- Parental Controls – Have parental controls in place to ensure that your teen isn’t trying to sneak and watch inappropriate television when you’re not around. There are high quality parental control settings that allow you to block specific shows, or specific television/movie ratings so that your child is only allowed to watch what is appropriate for their level of maturity.
- Rules – Make it clear that there will be no TV during meals. Let them watch their shows only after they are done with their chores and homework. Also, switch off at a specific time every night.
I must admit, a bigger influence than the television these days is the computer. From playing with friends online to researching homework and other topics of interests, your teen could spend all day on the computer. While we want to encourage our children to educate themselves through various platforms, there is a LOT of information on the internet that is not always appropriate. The wrong search could lead to something that you’re not ready to expose them to. How to keep tabs on your teen’s computer usage?
- Parental Controls – Again, use parental control options for the use of the computer and internet. More advanced programs allow parents to set limitations on the various sites their child visits, as well as how much time they spend on the computer. This allows you to not only ensure they’re not watching or researching explicit content, but that they’re also not spending too much time in front of the computer screen.
- Computers in a Neutral Space – Follow the same principle as you did with the TV. Just as you located it where the screen is easily visible and preventing teens from secretly watching after hour shows, locate the computers so you can see the screen. Encourage them to ask you before they use the computer or their mobile devices. This way, if necessary, it is easy to monitor them.
- Social Media Minimums – Social media can become overwhelming for budding teenagers. In fact, I am lucky my son is not enamored with it. However, if you are okay with your teen’s social media account, consider setting minimums and limits so that things don’t get out of hand. For instance: allow just one account that they can access only on the weekends, or being friends with your teen on that social media platform so that you can keep track of what is happening. Make sure you can access their logins and passwords.
Communication is Key
When it comes to positive parenting, communication is the most important thing. You don’t always want to respond to your teen’s behavior in a negative way or it can make matters worse. In fact, if you do want to say something negative, express it lovingly, with logic. By communicating with your teen, you’re letting them know that you trust them to be responsible. By staying connected, your teen feels free to talk to you, in case they have a question or concern about the information they see online or on television.
While most parents wish they could keep an eye on their teen’s every move, it is impractical, if not impossible. Even super-parents can’t be everywhere all the time. Television and computers are a huge part of teen entertainment and obviously unavoidable. However, by setting up certain guidelines, and using technology to help you, and communicating with your teen, things can be as good as they can get.
I would add here that parents also need to lead by example by watching their own screen habits. After all, we are their first role models! Encourage them to be more active and socialize as a family. Spend more time together!
How do you monitor your child’s screen time?