Marketing teams and entertainment companies alike vie for the attention of your teens. As young people with disposable income and less responsibility, it’s no wonder that teenagers are seen as those most addicted and connected to their phones and technology.
While high school and coming of age presents its respective frustration and complication, having the added grip of technology—whether marketed or not—can be frustrating to witness as a parent. It’s too easy to be nostalgic about a time when such technology wasn’t available, but our nostalgia does little regarding real solutions.
Similarly, outright banning or removing technology from the equation doesn’t do anything but breed discord and frustration. The modern world’s dependency on technology will not go away—whether or not your teenage children are allowed devices. We need to take a balanced approach and encourage teenagers to unplug in a way that’s natural and beneficial to them. By having conversations and seeing commonality between a generational divide, we can encourage healthy technology habits and breed respect for technology when it’s needed—and the outright removal when it simply isn’t.
We’ll be going over ways to help your teens unplug—from the alternatives that could be suggested, to planning for a consistent and lasting solution that will leave both sides happy.
Like we’ve already mentioned, becoming severe in punishments and dictating harsh rules against technology will look ill-informed and further drive generational differences.
The world as it stands is not the same as the one you may have a grown up in, or look back on with rose-colored glasses as it was. It’s becoming more and more impossible to operate day-to-day life without technology. Without the developments we see today, we’d be in a far worse position.
That’s why alternatives to cell phone and computer usage will serve your family better than bans or removals.
Much of this growth and change cannot stop with teenagers as well. Teenagers know just as well as adults that seeing positive change over time is the only way to buy into a new lifestyle. If you’re berating on Internet usage while spending hours on daytime television or looking at online news media, your plea will fall on deaf ears.
Think to hobbies you have or would like to pass on to your children that doesn’t involve a computer or cell phone. Outdoor activities like hiking, sports, and remote vacation spots tend to work the best, but get creative and see what can be done. Try to organize family events around these and see how your teenager feels about new activities.
One of the benefits of remote locations especially is the disconnect that has to happen by nature of the travel. A lack of cellular connection will help your teenager look up and see the greater world around them.
Similarly, don’t be scared to try out new hobbies or activities that haven’t been done before. If you live near the beach, consider renting a boat and heading out into the ocean. If you live inland, try camping or overnight hiking activities.
These will force your child (and yourself) to try to experience something without the phone and hopefully without the desire to document constantly. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a new experience and new adventure you can embark on with your family, and build lasting memories for the future.
If budget is a concern, look locally. Consider a trip to a nearby city and visiting a shopping district or museum. Appreciate the beauty of art in its many forms, or browse through a specialty and novelty shop and admire the ingenuity.
On the subject of finances, gently offer alternatives to your teenagers by showing a willingness to finance endeavors that don’t involve computers. Explain how a new phone is a frivolous expense when an older phone is still working, but just as quickly explain how that money could be directed to their creative enterprises.
Teenagers interested in the arts need the materials to create, and those interested in athletics will need your support at games and other events. However your child’s drive and creativity manifests itself, invest in them—not in their technology.
Whether it be the park, beach, woods, or stores, you’ll need to be there with them every step of the way. If you show your commitment to getting them off of the phone and out of the house, you’ll be far more likely to see small concessions. Focus on rewarding good behavior over punishing bad behavior when possible.
Involve Them In The Planning
Likewise, growing children are naturally seeing themselves less like children and more like adults. This transitional period can often lead to arguments about personal agency and responsibility, and technology can find itself intimately interconnected with this normal—albeit difficult—process.
Transparency is key. Before embarking on the journey to help your children unplug, consider sitting down with them and conveying your feelings on the matter.
Explain that—while as a parent, you have to do what you must to keep order—you want to hear and respect their opinions and perspectives on the matter. By presenting yourself as a helpful guide as opposed to a benevolent tyrant, you’ll see less pushback and less defensiveness from your children.
Genuinely ask your teenagers as well about how they feel about technology in their lives. Consider any counterarguments they may have and refrain from rejecting them outright. Two contrasting perspectives can always find commonality between them, however small, so be sure to note their advice when setting rules.
On the subject, ask your teenager what they would think is fair for rules and regulations about technology in the home and life. The solutions they present will certainly be geared towards a personal bias—but then again, so will yours. Perhaps an older adult sibling or another third party would be worth considering in this initial conversation.
Try to end these initial discussions with actionable results, like the delegation of certain hours to remain “technology free” or keeping certain rooms away from technology. Once again, these rules will need to be placed universally on every member of the family to keep fairness and consistency.
Likewise, once the technology has been sufficiently limited, approach the alternatives with your children as well.
There may be a local spot or amusement park your teenager has always wanted to visit, or a location they would love to travel towards. Without asking, it can be hard to know.
Show greater commitment to this cause by choosing to direct technology funds and the family budget towards these desires and interests. Perhaps explain how a lower technology dependency—alongside good grades and other metrics of development—will be rewarded either financially or with experiences.
Teenagers with a love of the arts may enjoy spontaneous trips to the local museum or to live performances. Tickets to sporting events may be of more interest to your children. Whatever they enjoy, try to integrate it into your new solution and involve them in the planning.
Be careful to show that—while their opinion is valid and deserves to be heard—that these are rules, and not suggestions. Navigating the strange space between mentor, friend, and parent isn’t easy, so the more your child understands your perspective, the better.
Tracking Growth & Development
Seeing and understanding the growth and development of your teenager from technology will require you to do more than silently take pride.
After several months of committing to a lifestyle that’s less technologically dependent, take the time to consider how far you and your teenager has come. If you’ve seen positive trends or enjoyed new experiences with your child, don’t ignore what’s come from it.
Since we need to keep teenagers understanding our motives and deeply involved in the process of establishing rules and the new system, we should also take time to involve them in the results.
Sit down with your teenager or call a family meeting to explain positive changes and express pride in the newfound results. For children that have joined new clubs or sports since the establishment of the new rules, highlight for them how these developments came in part from their commitment to the new normal.
If you had gone on a family trip or vacation with the money that would have otherwise been spent on new technology, express pride to your children that they were willing to “make the sacrifice” and go on that journey with you.
To put it simply—growth and development is the end goal, and once that goal is reached, it needs to be noted. You can also take this time to explain areas that could use improvement, such as rules you’ve seen skirted or bad habits re-appearing.
These “transparency meetings” will be helpful not only for your child but yourself as well. By exposing yourself to the way your methods and rules are being perceived, you can make changes over time to make sure what you’re saying matches what’s being heard.
Finally, turn the takes back on yourself and ask if there’s anything your children think you could improve on when it comes to technology in the home. Often, these will either be light expressions of frustration or a genuine plea for more time to be spent with them. Consider their words and think deeply about what they mean.
Building A Better Future
Raising children—technology aside—is done so with the hope that the values you’ve instilled with them will transfer over to choices made during the rest of their lives.
While you cannot hold yourself personally accountable for every success and every failure you’ll see in them, you can do what you can to make sure their discernment results in more positive achievements than detrimental life choices.
This ultimately comes down to relinquishing control of technology—or at least, your ability to monitor it.
Older children with jobs and other responsibilities may consider purchasing technology themselves or offering to take on monthly bills for their technology to wield greater control over the devices in their lives.
These wishes need to be respected when possible, and devices purchases with their funds cannot be controlled as directly as you may initially be inclined to think. There needs to be a gentle changing of the guard as your child makes the transition.
That’s all not to say that your influence diminishes—only your ability to abjectly control their lives when it comes to unplugging and disconnecting. You can still use your wallet and your time to involve yourself in your child’s life when and if appropriate.
For example, helping out financially with furniture and others needs will show that you’re still willing to help in areas beyond technology. Suggesting camping trips and time away from home which their option to accept or deny will show that you weren’t just trying to discipline, but instill a lifestyle.
Ultimately, it will be your teenager’s choice to use and abuse technology. The best we can hope to achieve is the influence of a positive and lasting example.
We hope that this guide has given you a few ideas as to how to approach the subject of technology in the home with growing children. Remember that open and honest conversation is key, and focus far more on positive reinforcement over negative consequences.
Help your teenagers understand the benefits of a life without technology dependence, bolster that understanding with positive examples, and don’t be afraid to get candid about the results you see.
If managed correctly, you may be able to foster healthy habits of communication and fellowship that extend far beyond the reaches of technology in the home.