Do you feel that your teenager seems to be always connected to a digital device? When we deliver our parent seminars in secondary schools throughout the country we regularly hear from parents that they have concerns about how much time their child is spending attached to and engaging with a digital device.
When we are talking to teenagers about staying safe online we promote, what we term, good digital citizenship. What we mean by this is that it is important to empower teens to make smart choices about what they do when they are online. This can mean everything from who they are interacting with, to the language they use and also the amount of time that they are spending online. Often it is only when they are asked to have a think about the amount of time they spent in front of screen, for example, over the last week that they realise how much time that actually is. It is totally understandable that teens can be unaware of how much time they spend online. With the growing popularity of messaging apps, sharing of content like videos and even music streaming, it can be very easy to spend quite a lot of time online every day.
Encouraging teenagers to spend time offline is undoubtedly challenging, however it is very important. The continual development of face to face social and emotional skills can not be underestimated. While teenagers are focused on the now, they sometimes can fail to see the future implications of their current actions. For example, in only a few years’ time these young people will be employees and they will have to be able to make decisions and interact with colleagues and work for the most part within a team. All of this involves face to face interaction and the ability to form productive professional relationships. It is crucial that these interpersonal skills are developed from an early age and are reinforced and bedded down during adolescence. It is a delicate balance between encouraging the use of technology and all the positives that brings while at the same time promoting time spent offline.
Talk with your child about why you want them to have a balance in relation to the amount of time they spend online. It is always a good idea to suggest that this is something for all of the family to try. Teenagers like to see their parents also have a digital detox! Prioritising a family activity that does not involve technology each week is a great way to introduce a digital detox. Encourage your child to spend time interacting face to face with their friends as opposed to messaging them. They will get to see a real reaction to what is being talked about instead of a managed response via a screen. Learning to read body language is another crucial skill that will stay with them long into adulthood.
In a world where we are surrounded by technology a digital detox can seem impossible. However, it is really important that teens are given the time and space to develop skills that don’t involve looking at a screen.