Screen Time and Teens – When is Enough?

download-1The topic of teens, their phones and screen time usage comes up a lot.  So, I decided to post a few suggestions for those parents who are trying to figure out the ground rules.  

The phone, in some ways, has replaced the TV of the 70’s & 80’s.  That was a time when kids could sit in front of a TV and watch for hours, like wide eyes zombie. Dreading when mom would say the words  “That’s enough TV… shut it off and go outside!”  We would die a little inside and yell back “But mom…this is my favorite show!!” However, once outside and away from the TV, you would strangely feel better. Like some invisible chain was broken.

Now that the phone can be used to stream Netflix, Youtube and other videos, I think parents should treat the phone similar to the TV and ask themselves: “What are the rules of TV watching in our house?” and use that as a reference point.

The next thing that comes to mind is… “Who bought the phone?” If mom or dad bought the phone, it’s important to put the rules, limits and expectations out there regarding phone usage from the beginning.  I cannot stress this enough. Otherwise, it ends up like a runaway train.

If a parent is considering buying their child a phone, think about the following before making the purchase.

1) Who pays for the phone and the service?  Whoever pays for it, set’s the rule. Be clear with your child. 

2) Why do they need the phone? Think this through. Can they only use it for Emergencies? Does your family have a crazy schedule and it helps keep everyone organized?  Or, are you feeling pressured (by your child) to JUST buy a phone.

3) What are the rules around phone usage? In other words, when can they use the phone? After homework is finished, a few hours before bed, or weekends only?  Again, be clear.

For those parents who have already bought a phone for their teen, it can be hard to rewind and set some rules after the fact, but try.  I suggest slowly weening them off the phone to a structured period of time that you are comfortable with.  Maybe start with no phone during dinner, then moving to…no phone after 8pm on a school night.  OR, what about having it charge in a central location (out of her room) at night? Then s/he get’s it back once they comes down for breakfast in the am.  Also, take a look at your own phone usage and let that be an example for them.

downloadLastly, regardless of your age, it’s not good to constantly stare at a phone screen. The screen is small, fonts are small, and it can be bad on your eyes with prolonged use.  We could all probably benefit from a little less time with our phones.

Staying Safe and Avoiding Embarrassment Online

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Guest blog by: Neve Spicer (https://wetheparents.org)

For most teens, a significant part of life is lived online. Parents often struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing internet culture. Sometimes they don’t have a clue what social media, instant messaging, live streaming, and online gaming even are, what to speak of how young people use them.

I’m guessing your parents aren’t following you on Snapchat followers and don’t watch your Live.ly streams. This puts you in a unique position of responsibility. As you lead your online life, it’s up to you to be savvy about the risks and to keep your digital footprint ‘clean’ and private.

To help you stay safe and avoid embarrassment online, make sure you’ve got these fundamentals covered:

Sharing Personal Information

Be very precious with your personal information. Protect it like a hawk. For one, identity fraud is a big issue. On top of this, profile pics, bios, and location sharing can reveal your personal information to shady characters. Finally, once you share it, it’s out there and you can’t take it back. Whether it’s an explicit photo or an online rant, these things can lead to embarrassment, bullying, and even damaged career prospects.

Here are some tips for protecting yourself:

  • Be wary – Always ask yourself, “should it be shared in public?” Never share personal information like phone number or address with someone you don’t know.
  • Profile pics – Never give your physical location away in the background.
  • Usernames – Use nicknames, never real ones.
  • Privacy settings – Understand them and check them regularly.
  • Location settings – Disable them (eg, don’t let the apps or anyone else know where you are).
  • Passwords – Make ’em unbreakable, ie, more than 12 characters with capitals, numbers and special characters, and never share them.
  • Think before you post – Don’t share anything that you wouldn’t want your mom, teachers, or friends seeing.
  • Unknown followers/friends – Don’t accept friend requests from strangers. If they add you, ignore and delete them.

Online grooming

Sexual predators and scammers hide behind fake profile pics and usernames. They may mislead you by presenting themselves as a peer and trying to make friends. Always remember that new online friends may not be who they say they are.

Here are some tips for staying safe:

  • Be share aware – Keep your personal information, eg, name, age, gender, phone number, home address, school name, or photographs, private. Don’t share them, especially with strangers or new online friends.
  • Be cautious about “new friends” – It is tempting to accept friend requests from strangers. Having lots of online friends or followers can feel great. But remember, even if you’ve been chatting with someone for several weeks, they may not be who they say they are. Only accept online friend requests from real friends.
  • Never meet up without a parent present –  Never arrange a meeting with an online friend unless you’ve asked a parent to join you.
  • Talk about it – It may feel awkward, but try to speak with your parents or another trusted adult if you feel uncomfortable about anything or anyone online.

Cyberbullying

Bullying is always awful, but when it happens online it can feel impossible to escape.

If you are experiencing it, then here’s an approach to try:

  • Talk about it – Reach out to a trusted adult like a parent, teacher, or online support worker.
  • Save evidence – Capture screenshots of abusive messages. They can be used to report the cyberbullying to school, authorities, or the social networks and apps.
  • Block and delete – Try not to get involved. Don’t reply to nasty messages and instead delete them and immediately block the sender.
  • Report it – Use in-app reporting features to flag abusive users.
  • Be careful what you share – Don’t share any personal photos or stories which could lead to embarrassment if they fell into a bully’s hands.

Sexting

Sexting is pretty common these days. It can form part of a healthy relationship, but it can also get pretty complicated and comes with some pretty serious risks.

It is simply wrong if sexting involves pressure or coercion from one side. This is a form of sexual abuse. Don’t tolerate it. If you do say no, any true friend or boyfriend who cares for you and respects you will accept your decision.

Even if you both are into it, remember, once you share something, there’s no taking it back. Relationships can and do turn sour. If you break up and fall out, you probably won’t want your ex in possession of explicit images or videos which they can spread around or blackmail you with. Sadly, it happens.

Before you share anything, ask yourself: How would I feel if Grandma saw this? Could this affect my career prospects if it ever got out?

Digital Overload

Digital overload refers to stress induced by excessive media and technology use. It’s just too easy to overdo it with smartphones. This is a problem for adults just as much as teens.

Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Forgetfulness
  • Stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Emotional volatility
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Impatience
  • Loss of focus and ability to concentrate
  • Obsession with technology / Little interest in anything unrelated to technology
  • Feelings of disconnection from important people

If you are experiencing any of these, then it might be time to consider cutting back – though it’s not always an easy thing to do. Remember, though, if you do try, you are actually part of a progressive new group entrepreneurs, leaders, and celebrities who are shunning social media and instead choosing to forge what they see as more meaningful life experiences.

Wrapping up

In many ways, the internet revolution belongs to young people who have embraced it, using the technology in ways that no-one ever predicted. There is no doubt that the internet is exciting, fun, and useful. The challenge is how to enjoy and use it while staying safe, maintaining your integrity, and remaining sane.

You can do it.

 

Overcoming Overwhelm- Join us for This Teen Event