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.

How to Always be “Authentic” with Teens

When working with teens, always be authentic.

[Authenitic— of undisputed origin; genuine.Unknown-1

Whenever I’m asked about my work with teens, I remind people that the key to success with this age group is being authentic.  I always say: “Teens can stiff out an inauthentic adult in seconds.” ….but what does being “authentic” really mean?

  1. Do not be judgmental.  Meaning…. just listen to them. Don’t be shocked or surprised by what they say.  Sometimes, they will tell you things for the shock value alone to see how you will respond. The key is…..DON’T!
  2. You don’t always need to lend advice. Just listen to them.  As easy as it can be to lend them guidance at this age, hold back sometimes.
  3. Don’t ask soooo many questions.  This will easily annoy or frustrate them.
  4. Don’t cut them off or redirect the conversation.  Let them take the conversation where they want.
  5. Maintain eye contect and show other visual signs of confirmation (such as, head nodding, smiling, etc.)
  6. Last, but not least, be present and engaged. Regardless if they are talking about a minor issue from school or a serious struggle with a friend, it’s important to them. And if it’s important to them, then it should be important to you as well.

Teaching Your Teen about Peer Pressure

Guest Blog ~ Teaching Your Teen about Peer Pressure

As teenagers grow into their independence, they tend to reject their parents’ advice in favor of making their own decisions. They test your rules and take more risks against your will. As a parent, you may start to wonder if your teen is even listening to you at all.

You worry that this sense of stubborn self-reliance could lead your teen into a sticky situation, especially when he or she is being pressured to engage in potentially dangerous activities. Will your teen’s sense of reason be trumped by his or her desire to belong? Will he or she even be able to detect peer pressure, especially when it’s coming from a trusted friend? Can your teen say “no” with confidence?

These are tough questions for any parent to have to consider, but there are things you can do to help yourself feel confident in your teen’s ability to resist peer pressure.

  1. Instill a strong sense of confidence and self-worth. Teens with a greater sense of self are more confident in making their own decisions. They are also less likely to succumb to the negative influence of friends. Teach your teen that “No.” can be a complete sentence and empower him or her to stand firm against pressure.
  2. Reinforce trust. Open communication, listening and understanding are key when engaging in a dialogue with your teen. When the trust is mutual, he or she will be more likely to come to you with any questions or concerns about peer pressure.
  3. Take advantage of teachable moments. Taking your teen to a party? Use those minutes in the car to discuss party behavior dos and don’ts. During high-stress periods, such as exams or sports competitions, teach your teen about healthy stress management. Warn your teen about the negative consequences of using alcohol or medicine abuse as a coping mechanism.
  4. Role play. Act out various scenarios of peer pressure, such as being offered an alcoholic beverage or drugs. Alternate between overt and subtle situations. Watch how your teen thinks through and responds to each one. Use different “characters” in your scenarios, including close friends and family members, to illustrate instances where trust and boundaries may be blurred.
  5. Talk to your teen about online safety. With new social networking sites and apps popping up all the time, teens are becoming more accustomed to sharing personal information and photos online. Teach your teen to limit the amount of personal information he or she shares as well as limiting who has access to it. Emphasize that what’s posted online can live online for years—just one bad mistake can have lingering effects.
  6. The gut check. Teach your teen to trust their intuition as a first alarm. If it doesn’t feel right, chances are it’s not right. By the same token, check your gut as well. If something doesn’t feel right, follow up on what is making you feel uncomfortable and take action if necessary.

All of these things will help you feel more confident in your teen while simultaneously helping your teen feel more confident in him or herself. That’s a win, win.

Author: Christy Crandell is a mother of two, an author and a drug awareness advocate working to educate other parents about risky teen behaviors such as medicine abuse on the Five Moms blog.