What You Need To Know About Teens and Screen Time

By Lauren Hall
October 11, 2023

You’ve probably heard some alarming numbers about how much time teens spend in front of screens. (Anywhere from 7 to 12 hours a day, according to various studies.) More than that, you’ve witnessed it firsthand. How do you talk to your teen about screen time limits, and what should those limits look like?

Let’s lay a firm relational foundation first.

  1. Your example as a parent speaks louder than any words. How you interact with screens in your life will have a more significant impact on your teen than what you tell them. (If there is a disconnect between what you show/tell, your teen will spot it, and it will undermine your credibility.)
  1. Your relationship with your teen, in general, and ongoing healthy communication, in general, create the context to meaningfully talk to your teen about screen time. (And everything else.) As a parent, you want to build relationship capital with your teen. This means being available and approachable and investing time with your teen.
  1. Talking to your teen about technology will be an ongoing, evolving conversation. It’s not a one-time talk.

Smartphones and social media are all relatively recent developments. This means that research concerning the impact of technology is ongoing. Here are some things we can confidently say that should be part of your conversations with your teen.

Pay close attention to the general health of your teen.

Pay close attention to the general health of your teen.

  • No screens at bedtime. (Technically, no screens an hour before your teen needs to sleep.) If screens are affecting your teen’s ability to sleep, causing them to constantly be indoors, or contributing to a sedentary lifestyle, you need to help your teen find some balance. 

If this sounds like general engaged parenting, it’s because it is. Screens are here to stay and shouldn’t be your main focus as a parent. Your teen is where you should be focused. 

For instance, we know that increased screen time leads to increased caloric intake. Screens or no screens, you want to make sure your teen has a healthy, balanced diet. Is your teen getting restorative sleep, going outside and getting fresh air, and engaging in some form of exercise? What is the role of screen time in all of the above?

  • There seems to be a connection between social media use and anxiety and depression, especially for teenage girls. What researchers haven’t sussed out yet is the nature of the connection. Does prolonged use of social media cause anxiety and depression, or do anxious, depressed teens gravitate to social media as a coping mechanism?

Research is beginning to examine not just the amount of time, but how teens are using social media.

Remember the 3 Cs– Consumption, Creation, and Collaboration. Creating and collaborating can be incredibly positive for your teen. Simply consuming Tik Tok videos for hours on end is another matter. 

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “joint media engagement” for parents and teens. This means spending time with your teen while using technology, so screen time can be a regular part of your relationship. Ask your teen to show you the videos that made them laugh and the social media posts that made them angry. Ask your teen how they feel about themselves while spending time on social media. Have fun and play some video games together.

Evidence increasingly suggests that the ways teens use technology is more significant than simply knowing how much they use it. This means you aren’t monitoring minutes; you’re cultivating a robust relationship with your teen as you use technology together. This will lead to more constructive conversations and fewer conflicts and confrontations. 

Was This Helpful?

Thoughts? Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *