Tweens/Teens and Technology: Time for a Technological Tune-Up for Parents!
For the past six months, I have shared many different tips to keep your tweens and teens on a positive trajectory with their technology. As I have reflected on these tips, I would just like to share my top seven from these articles so that you can make sure you still have your tweens and teens on the right track. Just like we go to the doctor for a checkup or take our car to the mechanic, every once in awhile we need a technological tune-up.
Technological Tune-Up Checklist
Tip 1 - Hear About the Hangouts
In other words, listen up and keep yourself abreast of new sites where tweens and teens hangout online. As I have noted in my research with 13 and 14-year-old girls in A Phenomenological Study of Facebook Messages from Female Friends to Middle School Girls and the Multi-Dimensional Effect on Self-Esteem, for decades, teens have gone to dances, drive-ins, diners, dives, and now to digital technology. They like to just have a space or place to gather with their peers and without their parents completely present. Tweens and teens prefer that their parents just drop-in, so do the same online.
Tip 2 - Learn the Lingo
Keep yourself up to date on the tween, teen, and technological lingo. This way, when you talk to your tweens and teens, you will sound like a person knowledgeable about their subculture. The Urban Dictionary online, can be a great place to look up acronyms and slang.
Tip 3 - Promote the Positive
Tweens and teens hear a lot about what not to do with technology. Be sure to tell them what they can do. In other words, promote the positive! Some examples of what you can emphasize, 1) how you enjoy your cell phone safety bond between you and your tween/teen when he or she may be out of sight, 2) how your tween/teen effectively uses social media such as Facebook to keep abreast of school activities, and 3) how your tween/teen can keep his or her online messages lighthearted through positive quotations.
Tip 4 - Take a Technological Time-Out
Remember to have everyone in the family take a technological time out daily. Be sure to 1) turn your phones off at meals so you can converse, 2) keep technological gadgets in a social or work-related space and banish them from the bedroom, 3) as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, limit tween/teens use of entertainment media to one to two-hours per day (this includes television, video games, non-homework related activities), and 4) about one-hour before bedtime shut your technology down for the night too so you and your tweens/teens can begin the steps to a sound sleep.
Tip 5 - Exit for Exercise
While this tip can also be considered a technological time-out, exit for exercise deserves a stand alone spot due to the increase of childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has tripled since the 1970s which aligns quite close to the technological trajectory. Moreover, childhood obesity can cause an array of additional challenges such as bullying, bone and joint problems, and can be the start of heart problems. Since many schools have eliminated physical education classes, parents need to encourage their tween/teens to join a team, a class, or to even take the family out on bikes or hikes.
Tip 6 - Practice Proactiveness
Remember you’re the parent and practice proactiveness. As with any tool, technology can have trials and tribulations as well as some tragic effects. Moreover, the media often sensationalizes the severe cases of irresponsible and often unsupervised tween/teen technological tirades. Yet, I also found in my research and through my work with tweens/teens that many do use technology responsibly. Undoubtedly, as a parent you cannot watch your tween/teen 24/7, however, you can let him or her know that you have the power of presence in their life and/or eyes and ears in the back of your head.
Tip 7 - Remember to Role Model
Importantly, parents need to role model for their children. Most people know that children often do what they see. Furthermore, incessant technological use and/or multi-tasking mania often takes away from time well spent with one’s tween or teen. The tween and teen years have so many transitions and while many young people as they age give the impression they want to separate from their parents and spread their wings (and they do), researchers have repeatedly shown that positive parental involvement in their life affects adolescent well-being. So, remember to role model balanced and healthy technology habits so that your tweens and teens practice these same patterns.
Finally, if at least five to seven of my technological tips have been in place for the past three to six months or longer with your tween/teen, then you have been on the right technological track. If you find yourself in need of a tune-up, then this week implement at least one of my technological tips. One step at a time will be the key to your success and encourage your tweens/teens to take the high road too!
For more from Eileen, check out: