It’s Not Cute Anymore – Part 2


by Danelle Spence



Teenager using his computer at night in bed.

This article is an extension of Part 1, so if you have not read the first part, please do (Part 1). The purpose of these articles is to describe important aspects of the time your children spend with their devices.

Three more areas to consider:

  1.  Sleep: Kids need about 10 hours, teens need about 8-9 hours. This is not a regular occurrence these days – especially for teens. They often worry too much before bed – so they can’t fall asleep, or wake up throughout the night. As an entire culture, I see an overall feeling of sleep deprivation. My first inquiry when talking with anyone sleep-deprived is: “tell me about your screen time before bed.” More often than not, I am told they are on their computers or phones. Or both. Most teens sleep with devices in their rooms. This is a major concern for me. About 1-2 hours before bed, kids should begin to deploy a healthy nighttime routine. Warming their bodies (as the drop in body temp helps to produce the sleep hormone, Melatonin) and settling their brains is essential before bed. Engaging in activities that calm them: reading a book, talking quietly with a parent, journaling, having a bath, drawing, or stretching, as some examples. Cuddling on the couch watching a chill (ie: not hyper-stimulating) TV show is better than a computer screen. Screens create a significant amount of sensory-overload which will only compromise their sleep. We also know teens can’t self-regulate their tech use, so if their bff texts them at 2:00 am, they will respond. So as parents, you need to regulate this for them and insist their phones are out of their rooms every night.
  2. Social Media:  Monitor all of your children’s social media. Even if they are 15 years old. Especially if they are 15 years old. It is your job as parents to see how they are representing themselves on social media. Ensure their settings are appropriate and secure so only friends and family can see their info. Don’t secretly spy on what they are doing, or go through their phones when they aren’t looking. It is about teaching, not ‘catching’ or punishing. Sit with them and help them navigate their social-media-world. When they make a mistake, help them resolve it. Teach them words and scripts to use with their friends. Help them see how others may experience them (ie: with the 17 selfies they just posted). Also remember,  “hit-and-run cruelty” is very common on social media platforms. This is when kids feel much more brave to say horrible things from behind a computer screen. Apps like: ASKfm and TBH… get these off your kid’s phones, and explain why they are harmful. Cyber-bullying is hard to handle, as it’s difficult to predict the next ‘hit’ for kids.  So periodically check in to see how they are doing with it all. You can learn a lot about your children when you are ‘curious’ about their social media use. Create an environment where you can have healthy, open, calm, dialogue with them. The ultimate goal is that hopefully, they will turn to you versus their friends when they need help or support.
  3. The Pros: Technology can certainly provide brain benefits if used in moderation.  I believe the following are  healthy components that technology can offer: amazing teaching and learning tools; the ability to email; connecting to others through FaceTime; finding like-minded people online (if safety is monitored); opportunities to ‘geek-out-with-friends”  (think: creating videos); amazing design and art capabilities; greater means for innovative and imaginative. All of these grow healthy brains! We also have a society of kids that when a computer is involved – they are actively engaged. Also a very good thing.

I wanted to conclude with Point #3 to emphasize that I’m not anti-technology. I merely want to encourage mindfulness of the amount of time we all spend behind our screens, and how/when it is used. Like healthy eating –  all in moderation! That’s the secret. If you know your child was on the computer during social, math and science class that day,  then perhaps limit the screen time that evening. If it was a cold winter Netflix-binge weekend, then perhaps the following weekend could include a mountain hike. If you create balance within your family, having awareness of tech’s negative effects, encouraging play, boredom, creativity, good sleep etiquette, healthy face-to-face relationships, then technology can have great developmental benefits.

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About the Author

Danelle Spence

Danelle Spence is a Registered Psychologist with a passion for helping teens effectively manage emotional distress and helping their parents’ understand the complex and developing teenage brain.

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