How to form healthy habits online with your teenager


Parents want to protect their teens and keep them safe. Instead of focusing just on safety though, what if we tried to think more broadly about what it means to have a healthy and productive relationship with media and technology in the home? After all, the changes in our technology and information systems over the last decade have affected us all, not just young people. We are all learning to navigate this complicated world, and it's going to be easier if we figure out ways to do it together.

If we focus on how to create a healthy media environment in our home, we will not only be able to help keep our family safer but we will also be able to take advantage of the opportunities available to us with these amazing technological advances.

Here are five key tips to create a healthy relationship with media in your home:

  1. Reflect on your own media use. Do you like to wind down with screen time? Do you get distracted by media use? Do you procrastinate doing the things that you should be doing because of your phone, social media or texting with your friends? Do you like to have your phone close by? We tend to be pretty judgmental about teenagers' use of media and technology, but when we reflect on our own, we may find that our habits are very similar to theirs which allows us to build some empathy and understanding.
  2. Share about the media that you use in the home. We basically interact with media most of our waking hours – whether it be listening to a news podcast, watching sporting events, binging a new streaming series or scrolling our social media feeds – media plays a really important role in our everyday lives. Talking with our teens about the media that we consume, and sharing interesting stories that we've read, or funny videos that we have seen helps open dialogue with our teens about what they are watching, listening to and reading.
  3. Turn off notifications. We are living in a 24/7 media environment, and being constantly bombarded with notifications about texts, emails, social media posts and breaking news can get thoroughly exhausting.
    We live in a culture where it feels like we need to know everything that happens the moment it happens, but it's an impossible task in a world that is moving so fast. And it can be extremely distracting! Turning off notifications allows you to have some agency regarding when you want to get your news and updates. Plus, setting your own boundaries can encourage your teens to do the same.
  4. Engage together. Sometimes the only conversation that we have with our teens about technology goes something like this: "Can you get off that thing for one second so I can have a conversation with you?" Followed by a grunt. We can do better than that! There is so much opportunity to engage with your teens as a family around technology and media. Firstly, teens are really technically savvy. They have incredible skills in learning new technology, so finding reasons to ask them for help opens up dialogue about new technology and also shows them that you respect their knowledge. Secondly, talking with your teens about the video games they love to play or complimenting a picture that they just posted is a way to engage about the positive aspects of technology in a way that might make them less defensive in the event that you need to raise concerns.
  5. Take tech breaks. It's healthy to have some tech-free time in your day. Think about ways that you can have some family time without technology. Maybe it's dinner time. Maybe it's Sunday morning pancakes. Maybe it's one night a week where you spend 30 minutes playing a board game together. Separating ourselves from the constant hum of technology can be a super way to connect as a family and show our teens that we can all survive not having our phones near us for a few minutes each day.

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