Counselling Chronicle (18)
Setting Boundaries on Technology Use with Teenagers
Parent concerns regarding an adolescent’s use of technology are an ever-increasing issue. While the potential dangers of technology are frequently espoused by the media, it is overly simplistic to demonise technology entirely. Technology allows us to connect with others, in ways that just a decade or two ago were unthought of. Further, it can be isolating for a teenager to not have access to technology when their friends do. Teenagers may find themselves quickly “out of the loop” if they are unable to interact with their peers outside of face-to-face interactions. Therefore, parents and teenagers need to work together to set some boundaries around technology to balance an adolescent’s need for connection, and safe and responsible use of the technology.
Research suggests putting the following limits in place in families with children and adolescents who use the internet and smart devices:
- Introduce daily device-free time (including the adults of the house).
- Consider implementing a “no devices after dinner” rule, and perhaps a family night where the entertainment is “old-fashioned” card or board games.
- Implement a one-screen-at-a-time rule, to stop students watching TV and using their phone/iPad at the same time. Splitting attention this way has negative implications for concentration and attention span in the school environment and a child’s ability to focus for an extended period of time on one detailed task.
- No devices in the morning when getting ready for school.
- Devices/internet should not be used in the hour before bedtime as they are too stimulating and can impair the body’s natural sleep regulation system.
- No devices should be kept in the bedroom overnight. They should be charged overnight in the family room or a parent’s room.
- Message alerts should be switched to silent at home, to prevent teens being highly sensitised to the sound of a message alert and feeling that they need to check a message as soon as it is delivered.
- Device and internet use should occur in the family areas of a house, not in the bedroom, and certainly never with the door closed.
- Parents should have the access codes for their child’s devices, and should be their child’s “friend” on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc.)
- Set iTunes accounts to require a parent password when downloading new apps.
- Parents should have open and frank discussions with their child about cyber-safety and appropriate conduct online (use the “grandmother rule” – if you are not perfectly happy to say or show that post/message to your grandmother, don’t post it/send it).
- Use website blocking software/websites to help students stay on track when completing homework, e.g. stayfocusd.com is a free website blocking program that can restrict access to certain sites for pre-set periods of time.
- Have a conversation with your teenager about how to be safe online. Websites such as https://esafety.gov.au/ can be helpful for some guidelines and suggestions.
- Rules and privileges for internet and devices use can be altered and extended over time as the adolescent matures and demonstrates responsibility in managing their device and internet use.
- If your child is sometimes deceitful about their device/internet use, or you are often not at home to supervise, consider changing the wifi password daily or switching off the modem at night (you could even unplug it and take it to work/bed with you if you have to).