Teenagers, Technology & Social Media

As adults, we have noticed a significiant increase in our screen time use lately. We might have even deleted some apps that were distracting, set up time limits on social media, or bought a pair of blue light glasses to mitigate our eye strain, but how often have we checked in with our teens and their screen time use?

Our teens usage in screen times is probably the last thing on your mind, as you try to juggle your work schedule, homeschooling, cooking dinner and your own self-care. And let’s be realistic, at this point, it is second nature to see our adolescents on their phone!

Younger children are missing out on the traditional structured school days, learning to problem-solve, cope, and interact with their classmates. For our middle school and high school adolescents, the biggest piece that they crave is independence (ie. being away from their parents!!). So, being cooped up at home can be extremely challenging. The use of technology may be the only way that our children can socialize and still feel a sense of normalcy.

However, how much are our children turning to their digital devices to fill the voids?

Recently, research has highlighted the high stakes that our teens face throughout the pandemic and their use of technology. The number of teens seeking help for anxiety and depression has significantly increased. Could all of this technology be a correlation to our teen’s mental health?

Dr. Harold Koplewicz of the Child Mind Institute stated that teens’ new existence is “plague by loss”: “the loss of school, the loss of social experience, the loss of academic accomplishment, the loss of extracurricular activities, the loss of freedom.”

Koplewics shares that although the internet has been essential throughout the pandemic to stay connected, people are using it “as a way to numb themselves.” We can’t blame teenagers for their digital usage!

What Parents Can Do

  • As cliché as it sounds, limit your child’s amount of screen time.
    · This can be done by downloading apps on your teen’s phone that will help you control the amount of time they are on their device(s).
    · Setting specific times throughout the weekday that your child can use their gaming devices/phones etc.
  • Schedule hangouts, clubs, sporting events that your child enjoys and will attend.
    · Although we do not want to see your teens drowning in extracurricular activities, research indicates that teens who are involved with activities outside of school, have less time to use their devices.
  • No devices while eating meals.
    · It is easy to pacify your child or teen, especially if they do not like what they have to eat, but this is a valuable time to be together and be present.
    · If table talk is something that is minimal, engage your family with dinner meal activities such as stating your Pro/Con of the day
  • Taking your teen’s phone away from them throughout the school day.
    · Your child can feel a sense of reward after their school day is over with their devices before beginning their homework.
  • Mindful Tech Checks.
    · Teens should take time to check-in with themselves and see how they feel while they are using their technology. If your teen notices that they feel worse after looking through some posts, have them look for a different way to increase their mood. Have them ask themselves:
    • What am I feeling right now?
    • Why am I picking up my phone?
    • Am I anxious or sad?
    • Am I fearful?
    • Am I avoiding something?

Most importantly, model healthy electronic use. If your teen constantly sees that it’s ok to pull out their phone while eating at dinner, or to check text at a red light, they will soon follow these behaviors.

If you notice that your teen is facing severe mood changes, more withdrawn than usual, or has drastic changes in their behavior, talk to your school psychologist, pediatrician, or a mental health provider.

Additionally, there is a Crisis Text Line (text 741741) that provides free confidential support 24/7.

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