Research shows that depression among teenagers is becoming more and more prevalent. One study conducted at the University of Montreal followed thousands of kids between the ages of 12 and 16 for four years. The purpose of the study was to determine whether time spent using social media and television can lead to depression. Their results showed that even a one-hour increase each year in the use of screens for these purposes could lead to a significant increase in depression and low self-esteem.
However, much of how we look at screen time has changed in recent months. With social distancing and quarantining at home becoming the new norm, we are seeking ways to connect and screen time may prove to be one of our best ways to do so. We are now using it to help ease the stress and anxiety that comes from being isolated from friends and classmates.
The following are tips and recommendations for parents on ways to incorporate screen time into your teen’s life in a healthy way:
Limit the amount of time that your teen spends in front of screens. And be aware of which sites they are visiting. You might consider a filter to ensure that the websites they visit are not harmful.
2. Talk to your teenager while they are engaging with screens. Discuss what types of content they are watching. A good idea is to view a television program with them. Talking about the content is not as harmful as independent screen time can be. Be sure to stay involved with your teens, whatever they are doing.
3. Never use screen time as a reward for good behavior. And never placate your teenager by allowing more screen time. Teenagers need to learn independent coping skills. They will help them in handling the pressures and trials of being a teen. Relying on technology for happiness is not healthy. Beware if your teen engages in the make-believe world of social media too much. There can be harm to the natural development of coping mechanisms in real life.
4. Teach your teenager balance. Help them to find new ways to entertain themselves. Encourage outdoor activities and some indoor exercises. Learn mindfulness techniques to help with coping skills. Develop hobbies such as reading that will help your teen develop new skills. It can also enhance their education. Even though this may be a challenge now, encourage your teenager to find a place to volunteer when they can. Look for a local hospital, charity, or pet care organization. Kids who volunteer for even one hour per week will gain skills. They learn organization, reliability, and accountability.
5. Always communicate with your teenager. Ask them how their use of different sites makes them feel. Be sure to teach them that not everything they see on the Internet is real. If they believe everything they see on social media and television, it can give them a distorted world view.
The use of screens for online socializing or viewing programs can have both negative and positive outcomes. When your teen is reading news, communicating with family and friends on social media, or watching instructional videos, they are tapping into the benefits of technology. They should be discouraged from spending time comparing themselves to others on social media. Always set conservative time limits on your child’s screen time. And remember that talking to your kids while they are online and in front of the television can do much to limit the negative effects of screen time.
If you need assistance with teen counseling, our Scottsdale counselors at Pathways Counseling Services are here to work with you and your teen. Our therapists are trained to help teens grow to be healthier and happier. We encourage you to schedule an appointment online, contact us or call our office at 480-235-1682. We offer a free 15-minute phone consultation.