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To say we’re living in a digital age would be an understatement. Teenagers today were born into an era where there were already iPhones and other technological advancements that simply didn’t exist for previous generations.
While technology has many benefits, there are some concerns that we’ve become too reliant on it, as a society. That can be especially problematic for teens since that reliance can impact their health.
Smartphones and social media have seen some criticism in recent years for harming the mental and physical health of teenagers. Some studies have even linked episodes of depression and suicide spikes in teenagers to an increase in social media use.
If it seems like your teen is attached to their phone 24/7, what can you do? How can you prioritize their health in the digital age?
One of the best ways to make your teenager’s health a priority is to set boundaries and develop rules for their digital device use. You might run into a few arguments. But, boundaries and limitations can be beneficial, giving your teen a chance to “digitally detox” for short periods of time.
If you do get some pushback from your teen, try to talk with them about some of the negative consequences of spending too much time on their phone. Research has shown that excessive smartphone use has been linked to anxiety and depression, and can cause excess stress. For teenagers already struggling with the stress of everyday life, that can feel overwhelming.
Spending too much time in front of a screen can also cause health concerns. For starters, if your teenager has trouble sleeping, it could be due to the blue light emitted by phones and tablets. If your kids are using their phones at night right before bed, that kind of light will stimulate the brain and make it harder to fall into a restful sleep. That can cause them to feel tired and fatigued during the day while finding it difficult to sleep at night. The dim lighting from phones, especially when your teen is using them at night, can also be hard on their eyes and end up causing vision problems. Watch for squinting, covering one eye, and shorter attention spans to warn you of the onset of vision problems.
By setting boundaries, you can limit your teen’s interaction with digital devices for an hour or so before bed. That simple action can help them get to sleep faster and get the rest they need.
Check and Clean Their Phones
Cleaning your teenager’s phone – in more ways than one – can help you to prioritize their mental and physical health.
Your teen should know how to stay safe online and on social media. But, that doesn’t always mean they will. There are a few things you should check periodically, including:
- In-app purchases
- Text messages
- Contact lists
- Internet browser
- Phone usage
Checking these things might seem like an “invasion of privacy” to your teen. But, if you’re paying their phone bill, you’re entitled to see how they’re using it. Take the time to clean up anything that could be doing damage, like certain text messages or personal information they’ve shared. If necessary, re-educate your teen as much as possible on safety using their phones and browsing online.
It’s also a good idea to physically clean your teenager’s phone from time to time. They are often a breeding ground for germs and bacteria (10 times more than on a toilet seat!), and could make your teen sick! A quick wipe down with an antibacterial cloth can keep them healthy and safe, and it’s easy for them to do on their own each day.
Encourage Other Healthy Habits
Another great way to get your teen to “detox” for a while is to encourage other healthy habits away from their screens. Preventative healthcare is incredibly important for teens and young adults. As a parent, that involves making sure your teens stay up-to-date with vaccinations and scheduling them for their annual screenings.
Your teen is old enough to practice their own healthy habits, too. Encourage them to step away from their devices throughout the day and:
- Play a sport
- Spend time with friends
- Take a walk or go for a jog
- Cook a healthy meal for themselves
- Read a book
Mental and physical health should both be priorities. It’s okay if you have to do some consistent encouragement to get your teen to see that, too. When they start to see the benefits of being healthy, they may be more inclined to put down their devices and enjoy how they feel. It will also give them a chance to experience new things without being constantly connected to a phone or tablet.
While the digital era is here to stay, that doesn’t mean you need to accept a smartphone in your teen’s hand all day and night. By setting boundaries, keeping them safe, and encouraging them to live a life away from their screen, you can prioritize your teen’s health and push back against the power of the digital age.