What Can Parents Do to Help Teens Have a Healthy Relationship with Technology

Technological achievements have helped improve life in so many ways. Personal electronics like smartphones, computers, and internet platforms like email and social media have opened up communication around the world. They have also given people from many different backgrounds access to resources they wouldn't have been able to find in their local regions even a decade ago. Teenagers today have far more access to information, good and bad, than their parents did just a few decades ago.

These technologies have forced teens and their parents to confront many new challenges to their health and safety. A lot of parents struggle to stay up-to-date with ever-changing advancements and obstacles in their children's paths. That said, you can make certain that your teen understands the negative impact that technology can have on their health and life and how inappropriate online behaviors can haunt them into adulthood. To start teaching your teen today, consider following the steps outlined in this short guide.

Discuss Health Risks

Teens are highly susceptible to technology addiction. According to a variety of studies, teens have extreme difficulty putting away their portable devices and stepping away from entertainment systems like TVs and game consoles. They constantly feel a drive to check their text and instant messages and social media accounts and escape reality through games and other avenues. If they stop using these devices, they can feel withdrawal just like an alcohol or drug addict. Non-stop stimulation from so many online sources can also cause attention and focusing problems. In fact, this type of over-stimulation can result in children multi-tasking so much that focusing for any length of time on a single task can cause them to feel irritation, impatience, and anxiety, leading them to lash out.

Light from electronics also disrupts the natural human sleep cycle. The resulting non-restful sleep can cause attention- and mood-related problems. Any type of disruption to a child's health can also cause them to have a poor relationship with food that leads to excessive weight loss or gain. In addition, their relationships can suffer as they pull away from the offline world to exist primarily in the virtual one. Worse yet, a lot of modern technologies contain toxic materials that can damage your child's immune and nervous systems. Also, time spent indoors all of the time can adversely affect their vitamin D absorption and cause cognitive problems.

Print out materials related to all of these health effects and then sit down with your teen and explain how unrestrained use of technology might prevent them from one day pursuing their dreams or shorten their lifespan.

Limit Technology Usage

The boundaries that you create through rules and lessons can protect your child from future technology addiction that can lead to serious consequences later in life such as distracted driving. According to this car accident lawyer, increased driver distractions is a leading contributor to serious auto accidents. More and more teens are driving while playing with their technological devices so be sure to apply those limits and boundaries to the car as well as to their time at home. Your teen won't automatically accept what you have to say about their relationship with technology. Most teens see their parents as out-of-touch people who don't understand how much they need their tech to get through their day. You must show your child that their technology is not an absolutely necessary part of every moment of their life.

To start out, prevent your children from having any access to glowing screens at least four hours before their bedtime. Give them chores and hobbies that aren't screen-based to distract them from the loss of screen time. Keep in mind that they might experience severe withdrawal initially. You must plan accordingly by weaning them off their tech gradually. Limit their time on a phone or computer to one hour at any given time, then 45 minutes and eventually 30 minutes. This will help teach them that the instant elements of internet technologies don't accurately reflect the speed of daily offline life.

If you need a more concrete limitation, try to establish a sort of iPhone lock screen time where your teen is required to do other things for a certain amount of time. Make sure you are there to enforce this period of time.Focus all of your actions on cultivating an idea in their mind that modern technologies don't exist primarily to provide non-stop entertainment or create addiction, but instead their purpose is to make life easier and simpler.

Show Reputation Damage

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Teenagers often make mistakes and have poor impulse control because their brains haven't yet reached the development stage required to make good decisions all of the time. Some teens believe that they can get away with inappropriate behaviors like excessively drinking, reckless driving, and performing outrageous stunts. Some simply act out of impulse and then regret it later. Microphones and cameras in their personal electronics, along with numerous programs designed to copy and store everything uploaded to the internet, have resulted in permanent records of these mistakes.

With a simple keyword search online, you can find countless examples of teenage antics harming the reputations of college students and working adults. Bookmark online pages that outline some of these examples; then, show your teen why they need to be more careful with their offline and online actions. Discuss with them methods for reducing risk. For example, create a list that outlines risky and inappropriate behaviors, such as their uploading or allowing someone they know to upload compromising pictures or videos, so that they have a reminder to guide them. Emphasize firmly that they need to think before they speak everywhere, especially while on social media. If they have difficulty controlling online outbursts, block them from using their social media accounts. If they lash out at you, confiscate their tech and keep trying to help them to understand that their statements as a teen might actually cause them serious losses as an adult and possibly even legal troubles.

Cover Security Concerns

Lastly, every parent should discuss the other types of safety risks caused by online technology. Create a secondary reminder list that outlines all of these dangers, the steps your teen needs to follow for protection, and instruction to report various incidents. For example, show them how to use password generators to update their account passwords on a regular basis. Talk with them about identity theft. Do more than say that a thief can create a false identity. Walk them through slowly all of the steps that you and they would have to take to report the theft to credit bureaus, police, governmental agencies and any companies pulled into fraud by someone using their name and to prevent additional events. Show them the steps they can take today to protect their data. Additionally, go over the many ways that bullies, predators, and stalkers use modern technologies to target teens and adults. Help them to understand how they should respond if someone targets them.

Your teen can have a healthy relationship with technology. They merely need you to show them the way. Since teens can have difficulty focusing, especially if overwhelmed with information, break up these topics into separate one-on-one discussions every week. Before a new discussion, quickly cover the previous week's topic highlights, go over any questions and then cover the next topic. This type of effort reinforces that you're focused on their health and well-being and that you're available to answer questions and help them. And if you feel a bit overwhelmed? That’s normal, and there are plenty of resources available for help.