tweens and teens on their screens

Struggling with my Teens, Tweens and their Screens plus 18 tips for safe screen usage

The good, the bad and the downright uuuugleee…

Most of the battles with our kids are about their screens. We have four children, two teenagers and two tweens, so that all adds up to quite a lot of battling!

We fight over how much time they spend on them, how addictive they are, what they are allowed to watch, where they are allowed to take their screens, how little exercise they get, how antisocial they are, about the dangers associated with being online, how little reading they are doing.

We are concerned about how they seem to have very few other hobbies, how they don’t feel hungry while they are absorbed and so can end up binge eating afterwards, how they are not interacting with one another and therefore missing out on developing critical social skills, how being on their screens just makes them horrible when they’re off them!

That’s not to mention the potential damage to their eyesight and posture or maybe even brains due to exposure to radiation.

four kids on a bridge overlooking a waterfall
© Liberty on the Lighter Side

The thing is, I know we are not the only parents fighting these battles. It’s one of the top topics that crosses our common radar.

There are many problems around screens but the biggest problem is we just have little idea how to go about addressing them. We are the first generation of parents who are fighting this battle at the frontline, we have no role models to rely on. We also have very little information available on how to address the issue as research in very much in the infancy stages.

So I decided to do some investigation to see what I could find to equip myself, hopefully it will be beneficial to others too. What I discovered is that, although the research is still in it’s early days, there are plenty of resources for parents and educators. Here’s the bad and the ugly but also some good!

The Bad

tweens and teens on their screens

Historically whenever someting new has appeared on the scene, it has caused a certain amount of suspicion. When the novel first arrived, parents were concerned that their children would become idle and perverted. The cinema was another phenomenon that cause alarm and distress amongst worried parents. This was followed by the woes over the evil of TV. The all-consuming effects of watching television are parodied by Roald Dahl with his depiction of Mike Teevee in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

We look back at those examples and possibly think that those parents had no idea how easy they had it, by comparison the digital and social media revolution seems way bigger and way scarier!

Although each generation has their concerns, to some extent our battle as parents nowadays may be more cause for alarm. Research is coming to light that demonstrates how our generation of children are suffering more than any before with a variety of conditions realted to screen usage including obesity, anxiety, depression and even suicide. Our own town was rocked just before Christmas by the suicide of a 14 year old boy due to being bullied online.

Here is just some of the research I have found:

Children’s mobile phone usage may have negative impact on development: Mobile phone use among young children may cause “significant educational costs”, with those who own a phone at nine years old faring less well in academic development as they get older, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). It found that children who owned a mobile phone at nine years-old scored 4% less on average in standardised reading and maths tests by the time they were 13.

Irish Examiner January 2019

How Do Smartphones Affect Childhood Psychology? Some studies estimate that an average person checks their screen 150 times a day. Data from Britain shows almost 70 percent of “11- to 12-year-olds use a mobile phone and this increases to close to 90 percent by the age of 14.” Furthermore is it estimated that 25 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 5 have a smartphone. Children need to experience the world around them to accommodate new ideas. For children, face-to-face interactions are the primary ways they gain knowledge and learn.

psychcentral.com October 2018

How Smart Phones Are Causing Kids to Experience ‘Altered Childhoods’ Teens today are experiencing a slower path to embracing adult responsibilities than ever before. Researchers concluded that cell phone and tablet engagement was at least partially to blame. Because with social connection always just a few clicks away, teens today are less likely to leave their homes and seek that connection in the “real” world.

Healthline.com May 2018

The Ugly

laptop surrounded by darkness
Stocksnap image

What is a great cause for concern is the type of content that is available online which can easily be seen at a click of a button in the presumed safety of our own homes. A child merely needs to type in seemingly innocent words like fantasy and girls for images to pop up that are rated for adult viewing only. With worrying information that boys as young as 9 years old are becoming hooked on pornography we may be tempted to run and hide them under a rock.

It is easier for kids to say hurtful things online than to say it face to face – the protection of a screen lends a type of false bravado. I briefly mentioned above the devastating effect of cyber bullying for a local family and sadly this is not an isolated case. We are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of online abuse as our news is filled with more and more acounts of teen suicides.

Although these cases are rare, there is no harm in being vigilant and setting up safe parameters for our kids.

The Good

kids have become smart about using online resources for their school work now

Not all the news about phone and screen usage is bad news, there are some benefits too aparently. The article mentioned above in psychcentral lists some benefits to phone usage:

  • A child is more capable of handling rapid cybersearches, making quick decisions, developing visual acuity, and multitasking.
  • Games help develop peripheral vision.
  • Visual motor tasks like tracking objects or visually searching for items is improved.
  • Internet users tend to use decision-making and problem-solving brain regions more often.
  • Smartphones and tablets can foster learning concepts, communication, and camaraderie.

My own kids have learnt a surpirsingly huge amount online and are constantly giving me all sorts of baking tips as well as recipes on how to make slime!

Always trying to look for the positives, I suppose that less interpersonal interaction between teens and young adults may in turn lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies and underage drinking parties!

One thing is for certain and that is the digital age is here to stay and it is growing everyday. As parents there is no way we can be digitally one step ahead of out kids as they usually are way more tech savvy than us already. However, we can set up some safety guidelines as well as chat to our kids about our expectations are.

18 tips for safe screen usage

12 year old girl on her phone opening snapchat
© Liberty on the Lighter Side

Here are 18 tips to use that can help parents and kids make the most of time spent on their screens:

  1. Children under two should not be using screens or electronic devices.
  2. Don’t block internet use entirely! We live in a digital age and it is a valuable resource which can be used wisely.
  3. Make time to open up communication opportunities with your older children around their phone use, talk about your concerns and listen to theirs.
  4. Agree to some tech free zones in the home, most agree that the three to include would be the bedroom, the car and the table (meal times).
  5. Find out what apps they are using and make sure you understand the age limits as well as how these apps work.
  6. Play alongside your children and interact with them face-to-face.
  7. Make sure smartphones don’t interfere with opportunities for play and socializing or sports activities.
  8. Encourage reading time or other hobbies to balance out the time they spend online.
  9. Limit screen use to one or two hours a day. This includes phones, TV, computers and tablets.
  10. Having a smartphone isn’t a right, it’s a priviledge. It is ok to use one as an occasional treat.
  11. Check your own usage and model positive smartphone use.
  12. Factor in family meal times together as many days in the week.
  13. Look for quality apps that promote building vocabulary, mathematical, literacy, and science concepts.
  14. Keep smartphones and other internet enabled devices out of the bedrooms.
  15. Regularly check your child’s internet history – remember you are the parent and it’s ok to set boundaries.
  16. Plan fun activities to do together as a family.
  17. Teach your kids to practice critical thinking, i.e. not everything they read online is true.
  18. Talk to your child about privacy issues and teach him or her to keep personal information private online. YAPPY is a useful acronym to remind them of some of the personal information they should not share. YAPPY stands for: Your full name, Address, Phone number, Passwords, Your plans

It’s easy for images to be shared quickly and widely. It’s not easy to delete information once it is online as it spreads so fast. Kids who share information now have no sense of the consequences and how indiscrete images or information may potentially damage future opportunities. Nowadays employers do online searches via their potential interview candidate’s social media accounts in order to determine their character.

Some internet safety resources for parents

map on tablet and woman on laptop
Stocksnap image
pinterest pinnable image
pin it to save it!
Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

24 thoughts on “Struggling with my Teens, Tweens and their Screens plus 18 tips for safe screen usage”

  1. A very detailed post about a subject that I think most parents worry about. I’m happy to report that my problem is not as bad as I thought. My kids have smart phones, but they are our old phones and they don’t really use them much. We have no devices in the bedroom rule which has always been the standard. And Nothing at the table while eating. I check their history, they all use the same Google account as me. They do spend too much time online though..even though I get them to have regular breaks. Way more than a couple of hours a day 😦
    #BlogCrush

  2. Excellent advice. I know I’ve been struggling with how much screen time my 11 year old should have. He does watch a lot of educational shows, but at the same time he also watches a lot of cartoons and such. He also wants to play video games all of the time, but we do limit those to about an hour a day, maybe more on weekends. It’s certainly a hard thing to figure out, but I think keeping track of what our kids are doing and making sure they are safe doing them is the most important.

    1. Boys seem to be big on the games and at least these can be social and collaborative whereas girls enjoy social apps more and although these can be good ways to commect, I think they also tend to cause some anxiety. I agree that it’s important that we stay on top of what they are up to.

  3. Great post. I have three tweenagers and they are totally obsessed with the tech. We have also had to put some strict rules in place live no gaming on week days. Its a really difficult balance to strike!

  4. This is such an interesting post, my 8 year old loves her screen time but safety is a constant worry! Wish she would find as much joy in picking up a book as she does picking up an Xbox controller!!

  5. Hi Liberty! I don’t have kids yet, but I find this post very informative. I agree that screen time should be limited to allow more time for other activities in the “real world.” Encouraging other hobbies, getting them involved in sports and other school activities can help them become more well-rounded individuals.The tips are great reminders for everyone. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I have to admit this sort of stuff freaks me out. My eldest is 8 so I know that the pressure to have a phone and be on social media is just around the corner. I am praying that for wisdom in handling this and looking to those parents, like yourself, who have older children to help me in making my decisions and working out how best to keep my little ones safe. Thank you for sharing such a detailed, informative, helpful post. #blogcrush

    1. It takes so much perseverence, energy and patience Lucy, especially in the winter when there is little incentive to be going out. As far as I can see all our schools seem to be taking this issue seriously but I think parents need to take a stand together too. It is hard to know how to fight back against the huge social media giants though. Thankfully there are planty of resources available but with all things relating to parenting, having good open channels of communication with our kids is key here. Thanks for your comments and I wish you well in your journey!

  7. The topic of our times, Liberty! Like all parents it seems, we have been dealing with screen-related issues forever. It’s an ongoing challenge, but we do have to see the positives as well as the negatives and strive to limit usage without merely dismissing “all social media”. A huge topic, but you have done your work, haven’t you? Excellent post. #BlogCrush

  8. Some great advice there Liberty. You’re so right we are the first generation of parents to have to try and come up with ways to co exist with tech in such a way. Such a hard one!!! #blogcrush

  9. A massively useful read, thank you. I have a 14 and 12 yr old and both know far more about social media and youtube and gaming than I’ll ever know, I do insist on keeping my son in view and ear shot when he’s gaming live so I can his end of the conversation and have stopped him on a couple occasions when I wasn’t sure what was being asked the other end…thankfully all those times were innocent but it scares me, plus my daughter is mentally fragile at the moment and after recent news about that poor girl who took her life it scares me to death what the internet is capable of.

Before you go, don't forget to leave a comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.