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4 Tips To Help Your Teen Balance Screen Time

  • Apr 15, 2022
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 4 Tips To Help Your Teen Balance Screen Time

Screens - phones, TVs, laptops, watches - they’re everywhere! Teens these days “grow up” with screens, like ’90s kids grew up with Pokemon, and this isn’t a good thing. In fact, 49% of teenagers feel that smartphone use has shortened their attention spans. Which brings us to the question of how can we plan a better relationship between teens and screens?  

It’s not simple, but it is possible with effort, consistency and willingness to course-correct when necessary. The 4 pointers given below are broad strokes you can apply with your teen as you think fit.

1. Introduce a Balanced Approach 

Always choose a balanced approach over a knee-jerk reaction while controlling screen time. Your teens have spent years building their technological habits - checking their phone the moment they’re up; watching Netflix during meals; scrolling through a sea of Instagram posts…the list doesn’t end!

Although all of these habits have negative long-term effects, cutting them off suddenly isn’t a good idea. For a short period, everything may look fine and dandy. But, after a while, your children will rebel. Less than 5% of people who cut off bad habits abruptly succeed in their attempt. This is why the focus should be to wean them off habits that do not serve them, while simultaneously giving alternatives. 

Imagine your teen is seated on a three-legged stool. Each leg represents a bad habit associated with the screen. The first order of business is to identify them. If they may have more than three, that's okay. We’ll begin with three. 

One thing to be kept in mind, if you suddenly take those legs out is your child will fall. So, the next step is to figure out replacement legs that provide the required support. For example, you can switch watching Netflix with playing cards. It’s a fun activity your teens will enjoy, and it also helps fill the void left by Netflix. This exercise involves a lot of trial and error, so you will need to monitor your child’s progress closely. But it will pay off because it takes a balanced approach. 

2. Enforce Rules About Screens

Rule, system, structure, framework, order - these words will be your best friend as you navigate a more balanced approach. The first step is to determine the total time your teen spends on any screen per day. Once you know what you’re working with, analyse the number and zero in on when it becomes excessive. 

There are three types of categories to consider: required hours, wasted hours, excessive hours. Required hours are the actual amount of time they need to be on screens, including for leisure. Wasted hours are those that can be trimmed and optimised. Excessive hours need to be cut. It is up to you to identify which leg goes into what category. 

If your teen checks their phone as soon as they get up, introduce journaling. Have them set aside a small notebook to pen down their morning thoughts. Other rules could include, no screens while eating or no screens immediately after coming home from school. In time, you could explore a cap on daily screen time. 

Sometimes, your teens may need to use screens to do their schoolwork. But, more often than not, they get distracted, and their 5-minute break turns into 2 hours of mindless scrolling. To prevent this from happening, make an effort to understand their syllabus, individual assignments and work with them to chalk out timelines. 

3. Encourage Physical And Extra-Curricular Activity 

In the hit show Supernanny, a mother called in Supernanny to help her child’s acute addiction to a video game. It was an extreme habit that had him hospitalised due to lack of sleep. Supernanny found out that once she introduced an outing, the child didn’t think about the video game even once. Sometimes your teen turns to their screen because there is nothing else to engage them in the real world. 

This is why it’s important to explore your teen’s unique likes and dislikes. Focus on activities that light up their brains and get the endorphins going. This is where physical activity and extra-curriculars come in.  A simple 30-minute walk around the block, a visit to a local park once a week, a painting class - it could be anything. 

4. Ask Them To Socialise

Before we write this off as an extrovert’s exercise, let’s understand the term. Socialising in this section means getting used to different situations. A teen that finds their life revolving around a screen is ill-prepared for different situations that engage all their senses. Introduce them to different environments, different types of people, cultures, thoughts and ideas. This not only makes the real world a little more colourful, but also expands your teen's mind. 

As we go from Gen X to Gen Z, habits around screens can look vastly different. But the 4 pointers in this article will help navigate your way around it! If you need any help along the way, go ahead and subscribe to our newsletter for more useful tips. 

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