When a teen is spending most of their time consuming digital media (we are talking excessive use here) they often are doing so to fulfill a need to socialize, or as a form of immediate gratification. So, what do we mean by ‘a lot’? It is difficult to pinpoint a specific number of daily hours as there are many factors involved, like; the child’s age, their areas of interest (video games, for example, can be a big one), whether they use social media, or whether they have family members who live far away and they are connecting with them online, etc.
Many parents will choose to put an end to this behaviour by taking away the child’s video game console, cell phone, Internet access privileges, etc. Most of the time this triggers a negative response from the teen and, unfortunately, has little impact on their subsequent use of the device. It is instead often more effective to talk with them about their motivations for using the device, and in this way get them to want to reduce their screen time themselves.
To do this, it is important to:
- Show interest in your child; their hobbies, their past times, their strengths and weaknesses, recognize their achievements, and talk to them about what they think are their defining characteristics.
- Talk with your child about what they do online and why. You as the parent will have plenty of information that will help you better understand your child’s behaviour and find possible ways to reduce their screen time.
- Talk with your child about the number of hours they spend in front of a screen and help them realize how much time they are spending consuming media. For example, you could ask them to keep track of the number of hours they spend online, or in front of a screen, as motivation for them to change their own behaviour.
- Try to find a happy medium with your teen by asking them what they think would be a reasonable time limit, based on the number of hours they currently spend in front of a screen.
- Remind yourself that a teenager’s behaviour won’t change overnight. You need to recognize their progress, help them set goals and, if needed, refer them to resources that can help them further.