Teens & Technology: How To Keep Them Safe!

This past weekend, we ran a free parent workshop over the weekend to help parents understand teens and technology. We spent 2 hours connecting and discussing some really important issues related to this topic: cyber bullying, when and how to set limits with phone use, how much time kids/teens should be on the phone, and how to foster in person relationships. 

For younger children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following: 

  • For children under 18 months, avoid screen-based media except video chatting.
  • For children 18 months to 24 months, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch with their children.
  • For children 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming.
  • For children 6 and up, establish consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media. 
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But.... there are very few recommendations for older children and teens! I hear so often from parents that they don't know where to start with setting limits, especially because teens are connected for more reasons than just social (think school assignments!). And we also know that recent research has showed that teens are experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression, and that has been linked in part to increased use of technology and social media. So, where do we begin?

The good news is that with few recommendations, it leaves these decisions up to the parents. The bad news? The parents have to know where to begin! Consider this... when your child first starts doing something age appropriate but that could have risks involved, you most likely go through rules and expectations, right? For example, when your child first started walking to a friend's house, you probably addressed crossing streets, and stranger danger, and what time to be home,. Well, the same needs to go for technology. When our kids grow up in a world that has so much technology, we often forget to have a simple conversation about the dangers and rules that go along with it. I've talked with so many parents who had kids using technology at a young age, and now that they are older, are struggling with going backwards to introduce boundaries with it. But the good news again? It can be done!

1. Know your goals so you can set rules: consider what your technology expectations are - what is allowed? when is it allowed? 

Typically I recommend technology-free family time, when everyone in the home has to put all technology away for say, 2 hours. This is time to connect, give each other your full attention, and model for your children that we don't need to always be connected.

I also recommend no screen time at least 30-min before bed time (ideally 1 hour) to give our brains a chance to slow down and prepare for sleep. Did you know that the waves emitted from screens can make it hard for us to fall asleep and stay asleep?

2. Communicate these rules clearly and enforce consistently: have an open conversation with your child about safety and rules and have a plan for what happens when the rules aren't followed.

3. What needs to happen before screen time? Think age and maturity level of your child, family values, and whether there are responsibilities that need to be completed prior to earning technology.

*Coming soon.... part 2 of this conversation, which includes discussions about why our teens are so impacted by technology and what we can do with it.

If you're interested in a more comprehensive list of guidelines - including more detail to the tips above, a list of apps that can help keep your child safe, and a checklist that will help you determine if your child is being negatively impacted by technology - leave your email below to have my Safe Technology packet delivered free right to your inbox!