Technology is growing exponentially. What’s in today could be out tomorrow and replaced by something bigger, faster, and newer.
The growth of technology came about so rapidly that it has been hard for parents and teachers to keep up. And we are left trying to build the plane while flying it.
While kids and teenagers can navigate around the internet probably a lot better than parents can, they don’t really have the tools to engage with technology effectively, mindfully, and meaningfully.
What do I mean by that? Although teenagers might know how to upload pictures, edit videos, create YouTube channels, they might not have the skills to handle the mental and emotional aspects of technology.
Is technology an effective use of their time?
Are they being mindful of what they take in and how often they consume technology?
Is what they are using technology for a meaningful use of their time and mental health?
If teenagers don’t know how to answer these questions it’s because they really have never been taught because the emergence of technology has happened so fast.
But we are learning more and more, and I have 4 of the best tips for teachers to engage with technology that they need to be explicitly taught.
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Table of Contents
4 of the Best Tips for Parent to Teach Their Teenagers How To Engage With the Internet
In today’s blog post, I have 4 tips for parents that will help them educate teenagers on how to engage with technology.
# 1 Learn How to Check In
Teenagers need to explicitly learn how to check in with themselves when using technology.
Before they pick up a phone or turn on the TV, they need to ask themselves what is the reason for using this technology. Why am I here?
Maybe it’s for informational, entertaining, or communicative purposes. There is no right or wrong reason. They just need to be able to answer the question.
After 10 minutes or so, they need to develop the wherewithal to check in with themselves and answer the questions: Am I still here for the reason why I came in the first place, and how am I feeling?
We have all been there. We log onto social media for a few minutes just for some mindless entertainment. Next thing we know, 5 minutes turns into an hour, and we are down a rabbit hole of searching our ex-boyfriend’s sister’s new husband’s FaceBook page.
As an adult, when I come to this realization, I immediately log off and proclaim that this is a waste of my time.
We want teenagers to be able to develop the skill of checking in on their own before they get too deep and risk hurting their mental health.
So if they can answer this question after a few minutes of being on the technology, Am I still here for the reason why I came in the first place, then that is a good starting place to know if they should continue on the device or put it down and walk away.
The same with, How I am feeling? Teenagers need to know how what they are doing with technology is making them feel. If they feel in any way negatively (less than, worthless, lazy, envious, bitter, angry, depressed, etc), then they should ask themselves if what they are doing is really worth it and then have the willpower to walk away.
Sometimes, it is perfectly fine to waste time on social media, but that is why having the ability to check in is so important. When teenagers can pause ever so often and reflect inwardly, we can start to trust that they are engaging with technology meaningfully, mindfully, and purposefully.
And this will affect their overall mental health for the better.
# 2 Create Rules
I do this strategy and it works well for me. I create rules for myself surrounding social media and texting because I feel like that is where I waste the most time and take up too much of my mental space.
Teach your kids to do what works best for them and your family, but for some examples here is what I do:
Rule 1: I do not (mostly) get on social media on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Arbitrary days I picked, but it works for me.
Rule 2: After 9PM, I set my phone to Do Not Disturb, and I do not (mostly) check my phone until 10 PM right when I am going to bed to make sure I didn’t receive anything urgent.
Rule 3: I do not have my work email set up on my phone, and I do not (mostly) check my email after hours during the week and not until Sunday night or Monday morning after the weekend.
Rule 4: When I work out/go for a run, I take my phone for safety but let people know that I will not be checking my phone.
Rule 5: I refuse to have an Apple Watch.
While my rules do not work for everyone, they can be adapted to fit your teenager’s lifestyle. Teach your kids that these rules prioritize mental health and other important factors in your kids’ lives like school work, reading, hobbies, friendships, family time, and exercising.
This article will help you teach your kids how to set up time limits and restrictions on apps and your phone in general.
By setting rules and limits, I find myself enjoying social media more and don’t feel guilty when I spend an unlimited amount of time on it during the days I allow myself to get on.
I feel as if I am more present with my friends, family and world around me. I get better sleep, am more productive, and make time for the other things in life that bring me enjoyment.
I highly suggest setting up rules with your teenagers.
# 3 Have Explicit Conversations
Parents need to have conversations with their teenagers about what they can potentially see on their devices before they discover it on their own or with their friends.
That way if teenagers do discover something that they are unsure of or makes them feel strange, they won’t feel awkward bringing it up with their parents because they know they can have an honest, safe conversation.
Dr. Becky Kennedy from Good Inside has a good discussion about these tricky conversations with Sharon McMahon from @sharonsaysso in their podcast episode about preparing kids for social media and the internet.
These tricky topics can include explicit content like pornography, illegal substances, unattainable beauty standards brought on by frighteningly distorted filters, or incidences of bullying and violence. We want our teenagers to feel “Hey, this doesn’t feel right. Let me talk to my parents about this.”
Dr. Becky cautions parents against shaming their kids for being curious about these topics because then our teenagers will be more likely to hide and sneak around with what they are engaging with on technology.
Talking about these taboo topics, especially at an early age, destigmatizes them and takes away their power and allure.
These conversations need to be explicit rather than vague. Dr. Becky gives some good scripts in her podcast to help get you started.
# 4 Know How to Restrict Negativity on Social Media
No one has your permission to make you feel less than on social media, but so many teenagers don’t realize that and define their self-worth by how many likes, followers, and comments they have.
For starters, a lot of social media platforms have restrictions set up in their app. On Instagram, users can limit comments to only their close friends, they can close off their DMs, they can hide the number of likes, they can block unwanted guests, and can even set up parameters that filter out unwanted words from showing up on their comments (fat, stupid, slut, etc).
Parents should sit down with kids and put these restrictions into place for all social media apps and install agreed upon parental restrictions on their phones or Ipads.
Again, these conversations about these restrictions should come from a place of having an honest conversation rather than one of demanding and guilt.
The internet can be a scary place for parents to allow their teenagers to roam free but by teaching them these four crucial tips, we can make technology more mindful and meaningful for them.
Good luck and comment below some other helpful tips.