By Alan Oakman
Growing up in the nineties, my first few experiences with new technology included playing solitaire on the desktop computer and fooling around with my brother’s video camera. And the coolest gadget that I owned back then was Gameboy. At the risk of sounding like an old person, I would say the nineties were much simpler times. These days children are surrounded by so much technology that even toddlers glued to smartphones has become a common sight.
While I am grateful and amazed in equal measure by the improvement in the standard of living brought by technological advancement over the years, there is no denying that we are trespassing into the territory of tech-overdose. And no one is more vulnerable to falling prey to technology addiction than teenagers.
Being a parent to a teen, I understand how stopping your teen from being obsessed with social media and video streaming services can feel like walking a tightrope. As a parent, you want to assert your control over how much screen time or technology dependency your teen is allowed to have. But being too blunt about it with teens can lead to unwanted repercussions. After all, the teenage years can be a rebellious phase in a person’s life.
Before we dig deeper on how to effectively prevent your teenage son or daughter from getting addicted to technology, let’s quickly glance at the ill effects of tech-overdose on teens:
- Obesity and fatigue
- Sleeping disorders
- Mental health issues
- Anger management issues
- Reduced interest in academics and extracurriculars
- Stalking, cyberbullying, and catfishing
If you are worried about your teens’ excessive use of tech, here are a few things that you should and shouldn’t do:
Come up with a rules and rewards system.
As parents, we know how to set rules for our children to follow. But, it gets a little tricky with teens as they have a tendency to defy authority. When it comes to reducing screen time, parents should consider using a rules and rewards system where the teen would be rewarded for spending lesser time on social media and the internet. This scheme will only be successful if you know what your teen likes and if you understand that giving up technology for even half an hour is a big deal for them. Unless the incentive for keeping their smartphones aside is good enough, your teen is not going to follow your rules. Take your teen for a basketball game or shopping in return for no smartphones during dinner. Or you could agree to increase their pocket money if they keep their cellphones aside during bedtime.
Use technology to raise awareness about tech-addiction
It might sound counter-intuitive, but you can make technology work in your favor by using it to help reduce your teen’s screen time. Most teens don’t like reading books or newspapers. So the best way to make them aware of the ill effects of tech addiction is through technology.
Share stories of how screen addiction can be fatal on the road. Since teens put a lot of emphasis on physical appearances and deal with mental stress, you can share videos about obesity and mental health issues caused by the excessive use of technology.
Use technology to spark creativity
Tech-inspired creativity and tech addiction are two sides of the same coin. Whiling away too much time on social media, playing PUBG for hours and binge-watching web series are unproductive activities and they can result in tech addiction. However, if social media or YouTube can inspire your teen to do something creative, then it can be termed as tech-spiration. Be it Facebook, Instagram or Youtube, all these platforms are flooded with such creative content that it can inspire your child to explore their artistic side. Encourage your teen to test out different skills by exposing them to new and interesting things. It will not only cut down the time spent on unproductive online activities that lead to tech-addiction but it could also give them a new purpose in life.
For all you know, your child could be a great stand-up comedian or a poet or a DIY artist. All they need is a little nudge of tech-spiration.
Don’t treat them like kids(even though they are your kids).
What do teenagers hate the most? Night time curfews, unsolicited parental advice, comments on their sense of fashion are a few things that teens are not particularly fond of. According to Exploring Psychology, the thing that teens hate the most is being restricted. Even though they are your kids, teens don’t like to be treated like kids. They do not like to be told what they should do, what they should wear or what they should eat unless asked for an opinion. When it comes to taking time off from technology, do not just impose rules on your teens as it will only lead to resentment and unpleasant experiences. Treat your teen as an adult and try to come up with an amicable solution for your teen’s tech addiction. Instead of snatching their cellphones,
Don’t go overboard with tech-detoxification.
Eating too much junk food or following a diet that leaves you starved. Drinking 5 cups of coffee a day or avoiding caffeine altogether. Do you get the drift? We live in the world of extremes where we strive for all or nothing. It is either a home run or three strikes. With all kinds of detox gaining popularity these days, it is easy to be swayed into the bandwagon of tech-detoxification. You might think that cutting off your teen from social media or the internet is in their best interest. If you are even thinking about tech-detoxification for your teen, here’s a piece of advice: Don’t Do It! Despite all the ill effects of tech-overdose listed in this article, it is essential to understand that social media and the internet are mediums for your teen to stay connected with friends and peers. The internet keeps them to be up to date with the latest happenings in the world. Social media keeps them in sync with all that’s new in pop culture. For many teens, controlled use of technology acts as a stress buster. Do not force your teen into tech detoxification until and unless they are willing to do so.
Avoid apps that block social media apps.
Last, but not least, avoid installing apps that block out social media sites without the consent of your teen. Using such blocking apps will only worsen your relationship with your teen. Have an open conversation with your child to chalk out a plan for controlled use of technology.
While this article emphasizes in dealing with tech addiction in teens, it doesn’t talk about controlling the kind of content your teen is consuming on the internet. It is high time parents understood that there is no way of shielding your teens from violence, cyberbullying and adult content available online. By trying to impose a ban on explicit content, you are only driving your children away, making them curious to find ways to consume the forbidden fruit. It is better to have a healthy conversation with them about harmful online content and make them feel welcome to discuss any of their problems with you.
Do you have any other methods to curb technology addiction in teens? Let me know in the comments below.