Today’s teenagers are glued to their tech devices. They have tablets, laptops, and especially cell phones that suck them in and demand their full energy and attention, often to the exclusion of other important things in life—including sleeping, live interaction with family members and peers, and schoolwork. Completely eliminating teen tech addiction might be impossible, but parental involvement is critical in lessening it in many teenagers. Underlying many of society’s most pressing challenges today is a lack of paternal involvement in the lives of their children.
Start With Awareness
Teenagers often don’t even realize just how much time they’re spending glued to their phones and other devices. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to help teach them how to engage in conscious, mindful use. Teens need to disconnect sometimes. They want to be connected constantly to their friends through their social media accounts and texting, but often, teens aren’t aware of the negative consequences of this connection. Constant social media pings and notifications can interrupt focus and attention, making it impossible to truly pay attention to the task at hand. Homework can stretch out hours longer than it would have with a little bit of focused attention, while the positive effects of studying disappear altogether when they’re paying more attention to their friends’ comments on a Facebook post than on their books.
For many teens, it’s helpful to understand the difference between times when it’s acceptable to zone out and times when it’s important to be focused on what’s actually going on around them. One primary and dangerous example, is when they get behind the wheel of a car, but don’t fully disconnect from their smart phone or other device. Have a discussion and define those times together. Try to get your teenager to define those parameters themselves so that they’ll be better able to identify the times when they truly need to concentrate.
Choose People Over Technology
For many teens, the phone provides a sense of security. They’re terrified of missing out on something that “everyone else at school” knows about and worried that they won’t fit in if they don’t stay constantly glued to their phones, reading every message in an endless group text and obsessively checking social media accounts. Unfortunately, this focus on technology can also cause teens to miss out on other important things. Not only are they losing out on vital social skills by texting and interacting on social media instead of having face-to-face conversations with their friends, they’re missing out on vital experiences right in front of them. Just a decade ago, “hanging out with friends” didn’t involve technology unless it was a shared device like a television or video game system. Now, teens are so attached to their devices that they’ll even text someone in the same room.
Encourage your teenager to buck this tendency. Remind them of the importance of spending real, quality time with people. True interaction with another individual will never be replaced by anything that can happen over a screen, and your teenager recognizes that—even if it’s hard to remember sometimes. Help your teen look for opportunities to interact with their friends, and turn the tech off for family events. People are always more important than technology, and your teen needs you to enforce that rule until they’re able to see it for themselves.
Temporarily Disconnect From Technology
Technology is addictive. The ever-changing array of information available on social media appeals to many teens in a way that normal, everyday interactions simply can’t. Disconnecting from that addiction is hard. To stop it in its tracks, encourage your teenager to choose regular times to step away from their technology, whether it’s for a few hours or a few days. Encourage them to ask questions of their parents instead of constantly googling the answer. They may be surprised by some of the conversations that may spring up from such questions and the opportunity for a bonding experience they could have missed out on. Create opportunities to interact with friends face to face. Discuss other ways in which they could spend time usually dedicated to technology, including reading a paper book, developing friendships with others who aren’t bound by technology, or even enjoying creative pursuits. Help teach your child to enjoy the moment without needing to view it through the lens of technology.
Ultimately, one of the most important things you can do to help your teen avoid technology addiction is to practice what you preach. If you’re constantly chained to your smart phone or spend more time in front of your computer than with your family, nothing you can say will help your teenager learn to moderate their technology use. You need to set clear boundaries and communicate well, but ultimately, your actions will speak louder than your words. In the end, that’s what your tech-addicted teen will hear.