Has Your Teen Taken Their Face Off Their Screen Since Quarantine Started?

Apr 16, 2020

Most teens are on their electronic devices more than ever right now for several reasons. Boredom is one of them for sure! In addition to boredom, they are on them for schoolwork and as a means of staying connected to others. As a parent, how do you set limits or manage your teen’s screen time during quarantine when it has gone on this long?

I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer for this, however, here are some guidelines that may help.

  • Monitor what they are doing. It is still important for parents to monitor screen time for their teens. With younger teens, there should be close monitoring so that you can continue to educate them about the risks associated with social media and make sure they are not putting themselves into situations they will later regret. For older teens, check in with them and insist that you have their password at all time. As their parent, you have a right to their password so that you can check what they are doing as you feel is necessary.
  • Help them structure their time. Even as adults, it is challenging to stay focused on work when your email, texts and social media is right there staring you in the face. Most teens are doing some sort of online schoolwork. For some, it is live, and the time is structured by the school system, while for others, they are learning on their own, or with your help. Either way, having designated education time during the week is helpful in reducing their time on social media, texts and gaming.

  • During school time, ask your teen to shut off their email and log out of social media accounts. Of course, this can be a challenge to monitor unless you are watching over their shoulder or you are able to monitor their usage from your phone. If you are concerned that your teen is not focusing on their schoolwork, you can install an app on their phone that blocks them from accessing social media, games, text messages and emails during certain times. Many are free and there are lots of options out there for you to research. Some of the more popular apps that block distractions are:
    • Offtime
    • Freedom
    • Moment (has a family version)
    • AppBlock
  • Have certain times of the day where you expect them to be away from technology. I know…this won’t be popular, but it is important. We all need a break from our screens during the day. It’s not healthy or normal to be staring at screens all day, every day. Perhaps during dinner and for an hour after, they cannot be on their phone. Maybe you have a half hour per day where everyone helps clean or get dinner ready. Maybe you have a time each day where they are required to do some sort of physical activity or go outside (if safe to do so) and while they can play music, they cannot be on their phones or in front of the television. You know your teen and what makes the most sense, however taking some breaks from screens throughout the day is a good thing (for all of us).

  • Continue to have expectations around bedtime. As you know, many teens will stay up all hours of the night playing games, watching YouTube or Netflix, texting or on social media. This throws off their natural sleep cycles and, when the time comes, it will make it even harder to get back to a normal routine.  Have your teen leave their phones and tablets in a common area outside their bedroom at a designated time each night or use an app that will block their access to their technology at a certain time each night.
  • Be understanding. Assimilating with a peer group and gaining independence from parents is a developmental milestone for teenagers. Their friends are very important to them and being in quarantine for an extended period is especially challenging. Social media, texts, phone calls, Zoom calls and gaming are ways that they are staying connected and continuing to feel like they are part of a social group. It may also help them deal with the stress and anxiety many are experiencing right now. While it may be annoying, it is important for them and for their emotional health to stay connected to others through technology when they cannot be with them in person. As a result, your rules and structure around screen time and the use of social media and gaming may be looser during this time and that is to be expected.

  • Be a good role model. Monitor your own use of technology each day. Just as it is for teens, it is easy for adults to get sucked into the black hole of technology. Each day be sure you have time when you are disengaging from technology and that you are maintaining some sort of routine that supports the routines and expectations you have put in place for your teen.
  • Reset expectations when the quarantine is over. If you have changed your rules or structure around your teen’s use of technology as a result of the quarantine, be sure to reset your expectations once we are ready to come out of quarantine. Have discussions with them about this ahead of time if there will be more restricted use so, that they are clear about this prior to the quarantine ending.

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