The availability of cell phones, tablets, and computers has launched a new level of frustration in parenting teens. Every last area of control that we thought we had has been virtually lost (pardon the pun). As I have developed rules and guidelines for screen use in our home over the past decade, I kept a clear goal in mind: when my teen leaves home in X-short years, she will be able to handle this device on her own.
The first guiding principle I use with my teens regarding a screen is, “Are you controlling it, or is it controlling you?” These little screens have a big influence over the developing minds and personalities of teens. Sometimes teens don’t even realize they are staring at a screen.
The second principle is the screen will not distract you from the important task at hand. During school or academic study times, phones can be gathered in a basket on the counter and then accessed during specified break times. This helps the students give their full attention to their studies without being distracted by bells or vibrations from their phones. After the break, the phones go back in the basket and the students go back to their books. Once again, the goal is to teach our students how to manage their devices so the devices don’t manage them.
The third principle to guide us through helping our teens manage their screens is a general concept I use for removing myself from the issue: choose your pronouns carefully. When my student loses a privilege, rather than saying, “I am disappointed in you, and so I am taking away your phone,” I word it with a neutral tone to put the weight of the issue on the student, “You are no longer managing your device properly, so you will uninstall that app. After two weeks, you will get another chance to try to manage it better.”
So in approaching this monster of teens and screens:
- Choose the principles to guide your plan,
- Create your plan, and
- Be ready to change your plan tomorrow as your teen matures and technology changes.