How does your teenager use screens?

  • Show interest in what your teenager does. Ask him/her: What do you love about screens? Why?
  • Ask your teenager to show you what he/she likes to do online. Visit together the websites and apps your teenager uses. Ask: What do you love about them? What problems could you encounter? How to avoid them?
  • Who is your daughter connected with? What does your son publish? Who can see it, friends or everybody?

Check the expenses. Do they buy things? Why? How? Be there for your teenager if he/she has questions or doubts. Remind him or her that they can speak with you at any time, with any issues.

Set the rules of time, place and content

When you decide upon a rule, talk to your teenager. Do it before buying the material.

  • These rules are valid for the whole family. For example: no cell phone while eating, no screens in the bedroom, put the smartphone in a basket at a given time, etc.
  • Specify how much time your teenager is allowed to spend in front of a screen. Advice on
  • Establish at what times and on what days your teenager can use screens freely. For example, a little bit more during the weekend. Not after a given hour. Only after homework is done, or after a given activity.
  • Turn off the screens at least one hour before going to bed.

Help children balance their hobbies

Motivate your child to engage without you into “offline” activities:  Excursions with friends, sports clubs, youth clubs, etc.

Create together “offline activities” as a family: sports activities, walks through the woods, expos, movies…

Monitor your own usage of media

Set the example for your child. The family rules are for everybody, including oneself. Be careful with your own use of screens. Show them how one can spend one’s free time in a balanced way.

Signs that something is wrong

Something is wrong when:

  • what happens behind the screen (the virtual) is all that matters;
  • your teenager doesn’t choose to be behind a screen: he/she must, he or she is lured into it;
  • contacts with other people are cut;
  • screens cause too many conflicts within the family;
  • there is school or professional failure;
  • the teenager is tired and lacks sleep;
  • the teenager is no longer in control, the passion devours him/her, that’s all he/she can think about;
  • the teenager feels bad when offline;
  • the screen becomes a way to escape, to find a refuge, to isolate oneself and to avoid reality;
  • there is suffering.

It’s hard to make a complete list. There are lots of ways to use screens.

A teenager can be very tired even without a screen. Puberty causes very important psychological and physical changes. It’s a hard time for teenagers, with or without screens. Sometimes, screens help them. Teenagers try to manage their feelings by being online. They use it as a way to escape discomfort.

How to react?

  • Talk to your child about your observations and your worries
  • Talk to him, to her: what are screens for? He or she knows how to do difficult things. You can also admire him/her.
  • The screen should not be condemned: it is their resource or refuge. Instead, try to understand. Why does your teenager feel the need to take refuge in the screen? It might be because she lost her friends, or because there are too many arguments in the family, or he is under the impression he’s going to miss something important if not connected with his online friends. Maybe they’re trying to escape problems. How to improve their situation?
  • Decide with your child upon the rules to use screens: a schedule for online life, a schedule for homework, etc.
  • If it’s hard for your teenager to follow these rules, put the screens in a common room.

Maybe you can improve the situation. If the issues remain, ask for help for yourself and for your child (see useful addresses).