Most parents are not pleased with their teen’s overuse of the cell phone. It can be hard to have a decent conversation with a teen when they’re staring at their phone. Just recently, I was meeting with a family for the first time and the son started texting in the middle of the conversation. I paused for a moment and said, “Please put your phone away. . .this meeting is really for YOU.”
If teens don’t have any boundaries when it comes to texting or other screen time, they will use it with little regard to anyone else around them. I didn’t take it personally, although I found his using the phone during our conversation quite disrespectful.
What is Screen time?
When I speak with parents about “screen time” use, they often think of cell phones only. However, I include television, computers/internet and game consoles, as well. How students use or misuse the internet is particularly important for college-bound teens as more colleges gain access to an applicant’s social media footprint.
There’s nothing inherently bad with technology. When the use of technology disrupts normal everyday activities, however, that’s when it becomes overuse/abuse. A “normal everyday activity” may be having a conversation with family members, driving safely and responsibly, or socializing with friends.
If your teen’s screen time use interferes with family time, I would suggest that parents immediately set boundaries for use. (Of course, it’s much easier to set those boundaries before high school.) One way to set these boundaries may be in the form of family policy on screen time use.
Your family policy for screen time use can be as restrictive or flexible as needed. It can even extend to screen time use outside the home if that’s a problem area for your teen. For example, during a recent business trip, I went to dinner with a family that I’ve known for many years. Their teen daughter was on her phone throughout the meal, except to eat quickly. I wanted her to feel included but it felt like we were disturbing her.
I talk with hundreds of parents each year and only a small fraction are actually OK with their teen’s screen time use. Are you OK with your teen’s screen time use? If yes, please share what works for your family. If your teen’s screen time use is not OK, what are you doing about it?