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Teens and Screens

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By Alex Liosatos, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Director of Counseling Services at Lakeland University, and therapist at Nett-Work Family Counseling. Third in a series of submitted articles sharing tips from area mental health and wellness professionals.

Technology is a wonderful aspect of our human evolution. We are more connected with other people and more aware of local and global news, trends, and ideas. However, there is also evidence  that social media is causing unhappiness in many teens (adults too!), and “gaming disorder” is soon to be classified by the World Health Organization as a mental health category.

When, then, should we start to worry? If we are well-attuned to our children we may be able to notice changes that don’t match with developmental norms. For example: if they are no longer involved in other activities; if they are becoming socially isolated; if they become very agitated when asked to discontinue screen time for other activities; or if their grades are plummeting with no obvious reason, then it’s time to be concerned and to consider creating some reasonable limits.

The limits you set are dependent on age, personality, family activities, and so on.

Examples of appropriate restrictions:

–  Prohibit use during meal times or other family times

–  Discontinue electronic use thirty minutes before bed time with no technology in the room after that time

–  Limit use on shorter car trips or longer vacations that are spent with family.

It’s important to point out, though, that if we want to change the behavior of our younger family members we also need to take a look at our own behaviors and ask ourselves if we are really being good role models. By modifying our own relationships with technology, we are modeling self-regulation and healthy choices. When it comes to family, we need to be the change we wish to see.

Third in a series of submitted articles sharing tips from area mental health and wellness professionals. 

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