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Encouraging a more healthy technology use in teens

A majority of today’s teenagers own a tablet, smart phone, and access lots of online resources for school and to connect to their friends. Regulating a teenager’s screen time may seem like a constant battle, and parents worry about the effect of technology on their teenager’s physical and mental health.

So what’s a parent supposed to do? Here are some tips to set a family guidelines for safe, positive use of technology.

The first step is to accept that technology is an important part of your teenager’s world. Try to avoid overly strict restrictive rules that give the message that technology is something that is to be feared. Instead, help your teenager develop healthy use of technology.

Talk about the many benefits of technology as well as the risks. Help them understand how important it is to respect others and protect personal information in ways that is appropriate for their age. These conversations help teenagers understand and talk about their concerns, and build their confidence to use technology in ways that increase their learning and help their relationships flourish.

Teenagers can find bedtime a struggle and studies show that using digital media at night can interfere with sleep and the quality of one’s sleep. This could be linked to overstimulation when then brain is trying to switch off. It may be beneficial to switch off the use of technology for at least half an hour before bedtime. Have open conversations about what type of websites are off-limits for your teenager.  Do some research in to the types of social content your child is interested in and filters that are effective in keeping access out of their range.

Discuss cyber bullying as lots of teenagers are aware of these issues, and may not know how to approach it. Cyber bullying is linked to anxiety and depression, and there is a low rate of teenagers seeking help for the emotional difficulties they face. They can often use technology to help express themselves, and to get support for their concerns. It is helpful to be aware of the importance of technology in their emotional world.

Help children to develop their real life relationships. Many teenagers find it difficult to connect with other teenagers, and spend more time online than making real friends. Help your teenager understand that their brain and body is developing and changing rapidly, which leads to lots of different emotions and feelings. It’s OK to be confused and ask for help. Adults don’t always get it right and parents can make mistakes just like they can. We can all try and understand each other and use technology in helpful ways to build connections and positive relationships.

Dr Raj Khillan is Director, Western Specialist Centre (www.westernspecialistcentre.com.au) and Dr Malini Singh is a psychologist at Change for Life


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