101 ON TEENS & THEIR SCREENS

Here’s what you need to know about dealing with your tech-savvy teenager.


Parenting in the digital age comes with a host of new challenges. Technology is a hallmark of the modern teenager’s life. Whether it’s Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, news apps or any of the other platforms out there, teenagers are spending enormous amounts of time online and on their screens, but what effect does this have on their overall wellbeing?

'According to a 2016 study … excessive use of social media could be linked to depression.'

TECHNOLOGY & HEALTH
While smartphones and social media apps are a big part of our teens’ lives, it’s important to try to limit the time spent on them. It’s been reported, for instance, that the blue light emitted by smartphone screens can interfere with our brains’ production of melatonin, which could cause lack of sleep and increased risk of obesity, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

To counter this, phones can be switched o_ at night or kept away from your teenager’s sleep space. Furthermore, too much time on social media can be damaging to one’s emotional health. According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders Association of America, excessive use of social media could be linked to depression. Then of course there’s a host of other dangers your teen needs to be aware of, such as predatory paedophiles and cyber bullies.

KEEP TRACK
In light of all this parents need to monitor their children’s online habits in order to help them to maintain a healthy balance. It’s unrealistic to expect children not to use technology, but you can set boundaries as to when they use their gadgets and what sites they visit.

KEEP IT SENSIBLE
As a general rule, from the age of 12 your child should be mature and responsible enough to handle using a smartphone, says social worker

Heidi Reynolds. ‘Sit your child down and find out what he or she knows about online safety,’ says Reynolds, who facilitates Talking to Tweens and Teens workshops. ‘First do your own research, then ask them what the dangers are and what they think parents worry about most. You’ll be amazed by how much they already know – and will be able to fill in the gaps where necessary.’

When you involve your teenager in setting ground rules and boundaries around how they use their phone, this will show them that you trust them and also expect them to be responsible. If they know you trust them they’ll be more likely to discuss anything on social media that makes them feel uncomfortable.

SETTING BOUNDARIES
Heidi Reynolds, a social worker and facilitator at the Family Life Centre in Johannesburg, recommends putting in place the following boundaries:

Keep internet devices outside of bedrooms, in an open space where you can see them. If you’re concerned about the content on your teen’s phone, ask to have a look at it, in front of them.

Don’t break trust by looking at the phone behind their back. Discuss your concerns. If you find something you’re not happy about, ask your child why the content is on their phone and what they think and feel about it. Then tell them why you think it’s unacceptable. Don’t yell, punish or delete the content before you’ve talked about it. If your child continues to browse or download inappropriate content, then you can put a block on the phone.

Make a rule that screen time is only allowed once all homework, sport and household chores are done and limit how much time is spent online. Experts recommend that teenagers have no more than two hours screen time a day. This can be split up, for instance, 30 minutes before homework, half an hour after homework and then sometime before bed.

Have gadget-free time. This could be at meal times or on family outings.

Monitor the amount of time spent on social media. If they break your rules, enforce the agreed punishment – for example, by taking away the gadget or cutting down the time allowed.


By Vida Li Sik

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101 ON TEENS & THEIR SCREENS 101 ON TEENS & THEIR SCREENS Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on March 06, 2018 Rating: 5

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