As we enter into the world of digital, our job as a parent has become more challenging than our parents’ times, especially when it comes to our teenagers’ screen time.
I have a teen at home and even though I feel that now it is in control, somehow I still ask myself: How much is too much? And what are the negative effects of excessive screen use on our teens’ health and well-being?
Since my child turned 13, I have loosened the grip on screen time with him. Others have suggested that I am making the wrong move as my teenage child will go bonkers with excessive screen time.
I have to admit that teenagers today are spending more time on screens than ever before. With the rise of social media, gaming, and streaming platforms, it’s becoming harder to limit their screen time once I allow them to own their own devices.
But did you know that there are also benefits to screen time for teens?
My teen has been a very quiet person and doesn’t really like to connect with others. Since allowing him the screen time, he started connecting with friends and family members and staying in touch with them. This can be especially important for teens who may feel isolated or lonely.
I noticed that his communication skills have also improved along the way as he started connecting with others.
Many parents have told me that they have lost touch with what the schools are teaching and they do not know how to teach and guide their teens, which is why tuition classes are gaining all the attention.
If the teen gets stuck with any questions, they either text the teacher or wait till they return to school and ask the teacher physically. This involves waiting and after the waiting, we tend to forget.
Instead of waiting, unless that information requires an answer from the teacher, I assisted my teen in conducting online research and indirectly imparting to him the skill of being resourceful. There is a vast amount of information available online to help him with his schoolwork and explore new topics that are of his interest.
Of course, even with the benefits, we still need to monitor and help them manage their screen time.
The Impact of Digital Media Use on Mental Health & Emotional Well-Being
Even though there are benefits in using the digital world, as parents, we do not want our teens to stay long hours on it.
I have heard and seen many parents with teens struggling to keep their teens away from digital media.
It is definitely not easy because everywhere we turn, there’s a new form of technology that’s just too tempting to resist, such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.
With the internet and its fast-speed access at our fingertips, it’s no wonder that digital media has become so popular.
Honestly, digital media can be educational, entertaining and useful. On the other hand, it can be tremendously harmful at the same time especially when it comes to cyberbullying.
We need to be aware of the negative impact that excessive screen time can have on our teens’ mental health and emotional well-being because they spend more time online than any other age group, and this puts them at greater risk of sleep deprivation, cyberbullying, and social isolation.
Without realising, teenagers can get lost in the digital world very easily. As parents, it’s our responsibility to stay observant and take note of any changes in our teens’ behaviour.
Studies have shown that excessive digital media use can lead to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. It’s important to remember that not all young people are equally affected by digital media, and many factors can influence how it impacts an individual’s mental health and well-being.
How Parents Can Help Their Teens Manage Technology Responsibly
I see the benefits of using social media, at the same time understand its negative impact. As a result, I always find it challenging to learn the right balance when it comes to our teenagers’ use of digital media.
The benefits of using digital media so that they can stay connected with friends and family, have access to educational resources and enjoy the many other benefits that technology has to offer.
On the other hand, I don’t want them to become addicted to screens and forget to do their work or even sleep. I don’t want them to suffer from negative effects on their mental and emotional health, or miss out on other important aspects of life.
So, on an ongoing basis, I am always on the lookout for ways to help my teen to develop healthy digital habits and maintain a balanced digital life. Here is what I did with my teen:
Setting clear boundaries and expectations
It is always good to set clear boundaries and expectations around internet and digital media use together with my teen. Always reminding myself to have an open and honest conversation with him about how much time he should be spending online and what types of content are appropriate. While he is having his screen time, I encourage him to take breaks from screens, such as looking out of the window or doing other physical activities.
When setting expectations, make sure it is clear and he is able to follow. To find out more about how to set clear expectations, head over to “How to Set Clear Expectations For Your Child?”
Be their role model
Even though my child is a teenager, they still look up to us as their role model and learn from us indirectly. I am always conscious and model healthy internet usage for him. It’s important for me to practice what I preach and demonstrate good digital habits myself.
Whenever is family time, we will all put down our own devices, prioritize face-to-face communication, and show each other that there is more to life than just screens.
Help them to find the balance
Is not easy for a teen to find their own balance. As a parent, I will help and guide him to find the balance by encouraging a variety of activities or even pursuing his passions/hobbies that are outside of the digital world.
Getting away from the screen can be a great stress relief too!
I’m always on the lookout for any signs of mood or behavioural change, sleep deprivation and social isolation
If I notice any of these warning signs, I will immediately seek help from a mental health professional or other trusted resources. This is not a joke and if you don’t get it treated soon, it will become disastrous.
So, let’s be mindful of how much we can help our teens to achieve a healthy balance in digital media use to promote their mental and emotional well-being. Together, we can support our teens maintain a balanced digital life and responsible screen time use in a healthy and positive way.