By Adolescence, digital media takes a whole new shape for your child: social media accounts, smartphones, and laptops become a part of the daily routine. Your child’s school work requires online access, but the internet does not get filtered for its most vulnerable users, despite their advanced search capabilities. The technology so readily available to the Adolescent changes as rapidly as they do, and it’s nearly impossible to keep a grasp on it all.
Indeed, this new terrain of digital independence arrives at a pivotal time in an Adolescent’s life; just when their mind and body need purposeful movement and human connection, digital devices swivel their attention toward sedentary and often isolating pastimes. With handheld tools now at their disposal, dual screen time becomes a common occurrence, splitting their attention across countless pixels. A study from 2019 JAMA Pediatrics found strong associations between depressive symptoms and social media usage in Adolescents, and one of the strongest researched links to obesity in children and adolescents is, unsurprisingly, screen media exposure.
So what’s a parent to do in an increasingly digital age? Most importantly, have a conversation with your Adolescent about their media usage, and make them an agent in the decision about how to use it wisely and purposefully. Ask your child how all that scrolling makes them feel. Anxious? Jealous? Forgetful of how they got there in the first place? Is it really helping them feel more social, or is it what they pick up when they’re not sure what else to do? Help them consider what limits are appropriate, and center the conversation around the values that you hold as a family. Find ways to capitalize on the opportunity that digital media provides for creativity and connection rather than focusing on limits, limits, limits.
With the knowledge that phones are not allowed at school, invite your child to consider when phone, laptop, and general screen time meets a real need. Encourage them to develop a strategy to navigate the ideas, images, and incentives being thrown at them by savvy online marketing ploys–even digital cookies can be addictive.