- Marianne Breadner, MSW, RSW
Teens & Technology
Parents today are often uncertain and confused on how to deal with the issues of teens and their “screen time”…whether it be cell phones, ipods and ipads, computers, television, and video games. Conflict arises when parents try to put limits on their kids constant use of technology as youth tend to view this as punishment, not trying to find a more balanced way of life. Complicating matters further is that most young people are far more tech savvy than their parents and can, and will, often access sites and programs that may not be appropriate.
As with most parenting issues it is best to use common sense and consistency when dealing with technology. Family rules should be established at a young age that encourage real person to person contact and communication; such as all cell phones are absent from family meal time. It is important for parents to set an example regarding this. Young people need to develop the skill of recognizing facial expressions linked to various emotions and face to face conversations are the best way for them to learn this.
It is important for youth to have at least half an hour of screen free time before bedtime to start getting their brains ready for sleep mode. Screen time tends to overstimulate the brain and makes it harder to fall asleep. Reading, listening to music or other routines help our brains to “switch gears”. Youth should not be sleeping with their cell phones. Many youth text constantly throughout the night if they have their cell phone with them and this can interfere not just with proper sleep but also school and other important activities. Remember if you paid for their cell phone or plan you have control over when they can use it. The same goes for internet access at home if you pay for it. Technology can be a wonderful tool but it cannot replace a relationship with real people.