Teens say they’re addicted to technology. Here’s how parents can help

Insights, advice, and recommendation for modern parents dealing with kids and technology addiction.

Scroll to read the article or click the button to consult with an expert

Let’s get beyond scary stats about kids and technology and talk about realistic, practical parenting strategies.

What Our Experts Are Saying

Insights, recommendations, and advice for parents balancing kids and technology from the doctors, subject matter experts and thought leaders in the Modern Parent Project community.

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What to Do?

Direct, straightforward and summarized advice and recommendations.  Parents, please consider the following insights when navigating the challenging topic of kids and technology.

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What NOT to Do?

The wrong words or actions can sometimes make things worse with kids.  Parents, please consider avoiding the following potential traps.

Strive for balance and moderation, not restriction

You’ll gain more credibility (and have less family discord) by embracing your children’s tech-everywhere worlds while also positioning yourselves as their tech protectors. They may not always like your rules that protect them, but they are more likely to respect them if they are permitted to use and enjoy digital media in moderation.

Seek expert help if needed

As the article states, “If you observe significant negative issues with your kids’ use of media and technology (for example: It’s harming their mental health, disrupting their relationships or hurting their academic performance) and you don’t feel equipped to address it yourself, consult your pediatrician, a psychologist, a social worker or another professional for advice.” Better yet, a consult with an MPP expert is about as efficient and targetted a first step as a parent can take.

Don't go dark

As tempting as it may be at times to pull the plug completely, “parents who have a balanced approach to media, and who allow their teens access to it, can guide the usage and conversation around it better, and help them find a healthy balance.” Of course, a well-planned Digital Media Cleanse is an altogether different story and can be extremely beneficial to children in many different areas.

Don't wait til it's too late

In our practice, one of the most frustrating things we see is people waiting to reach out for help until things get really, really bad. Sure, sometimes we parents miss early warning signs or things go south very quickly. But if as you are reading this you have significant concerns about how your child’s relationship with tech is negatively affecting his/her emotional/physical/social health and or academic performance, we encourage you to take the very moderate first step of consulting with an MPP expert.

Teens say they’re addicted to technology. Here’s how parents can help

It’s one thing to recognize our kids’ vulnerabilities to becoming addicted to their screens. It’s quite another to know what to do proactively to help lower the likelihood of this happening. This article is in response to a major 2016 study by CommonSenseMedia that yielded some shocking statistics. It offers some practical ideas for modern parents regarding how to guide children toward healthy relationships with technology.

By Amy Joyce (article)

Half of all teens say they feel addicted to their mobile devices.

That’s right, 50 percent of teens actually admitted that they feel addicted. Just imagine what the real number is.

Not only do teens feel they can’t put their devices down, but their parents know it (59 percent) and many parents themselves can’t put their own devices down (27 percent).

This according to a new report by Common Sense Media, which also found that teens feel their parents are addicted as well.

“Digital devices have transformed people’s lives. They are changing everything from parent-child relationships to human interaction, to our ability to focus on the task at hand,” said James Steyer, founder and chief executive of Common Sense, an organization that studies and rates media and technology for kids and families. “And particularly for young people who are growing up as digital natives. It has public health concerns.”

With technology blending into our lives in ways that we could never have imagined just a decade ago, it’s tricky to decide what’s okay and what is just the way we live now. It’s difficult to find a balance and to set boundaries, for our children and ourselves. For instance, 48 percent of parents feel they have to answer emails and texts immediately, and 72 percent of teens say they need to; 69 percent of parents say they check devices hourly while 78 percent of teens do.

What impact does all of this have on our lives? According to the report, it’s led to multitasking that our brains, and certainly our children’s brains, can’t handle. In fact, high percentages of teens admitted that they watched TV, used social media and texted while doing homework. (And yet most teens said they didn’t think their multitasking harmed the quality of their work.)

The report also found that devices are impacting our relationships. Of the parents surveyed, 77 percent feel teens get distracted by devices and don’t pay attention when they are together and 41 percent of teens say the same about their parents. Screens are also impacting our health and safety: 56 percent of parents admit to using devices while driving — with kids in the car — and 51 percent of teens see their parents checking mobile devices while driving.

The report, which surveyed more than 1,200 teens and parents, also pulled together recent reports and research on technology use and suggests the constant attention to devices is making it difficult for our children to have face-to-face conversations or learn to be empathetic. In case you still think teens aren’t in front of screens all that much, November’s Common Sense Census: Media Use by Teens and Tweens, found that teens in the United States spend an average of nine hours daily on media.

As a true sign that both parents and teens recognize this is a problem, about half of parents and one-third of teens surveyed said they very often or occasionally try to cut down on the amount of time they spend on their devices, and 52 percent of teens said they agree that they spend too much time on their mobile devices. Yes, that’s more than half of teens saying they are on their devices too much.

So why not just turn all technology off and go back to pioneer days? Very funny. We all know that’s not possible, but it also wouldn’t be smart. Parents who have a balanced approach to media, and who allow their teens access to it, can guide the usage and conversation around it better, and help them find a healthy balance, Steyer said.

Need some help figuring out how to develop better balance? Common Sense offers up ways parents can help teens locate that sweet spot when it comes to technology use:

 

  • Declare tech-free zones and times. As with most things, boundaries are good. Support your kids in trying to find balance and set limits. These rules could be as simple as no phones at dinner or no texting after 9 p.m.
  • Check the ratings. Choose age-appropriate high-quality media and technology for your family. These things can be especially beneficial when used to form deeper relationships, allow for creativity and exploration. Encourage kids to be creative, responsible consumers, not just passive users.
  • Talk about it. Connect with your kids and support learning by talking about what they’re seeing, reading and playing. Encourage kids to question and consider media messages to better understand the role media plays in their own lives.
  • Help kids understand the effects of multitasking. As parents, we know that helping kids stay focused will only strengthen interpersonal skills and school performance. Encourage them to minimize distractions and manage one task at a time, shutting down social media while working online for homework or engaging in a conversation.
  • Walk the walk. Put your devices away while driving, at meal times and during family time. Parent role-modeling shows kids the behavior and values you want in your home. Kids will be more open and willing participants when the house rules apply to you, too.

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