My Teen is Always Online – What Can I Do?

Without parental guidance, most teens will spend almost all their time outside the classroom transfixed by a screen. They may be texting on their phones, connecting with their Facebook “friends,” or watching videos on their tablets. In addition, many adolescents are multi-tasking – for instance watching TV or doing homework while also scrolling through social media.

How Much Time Are Teens Spending on Line?

The answer is a lot! A recent study by Pew Research found that 50% of teens say they are online almost all the time. (This percentage has risen from 24% in Pew’s 2014-15 study.) 44% of the teens participating in the new study reported being online multiple times during the day. So, what can you as a concerned parent do to limit your adolescent’s screen time, especially when they say “everybody’s doing it”? Here are some helpful strategies.

Make Screen Time a Privilege

Your adolescent may feel that screen time is a right and should be available 24/7. It may be difficult to change this mindset, but try to get across the notion that digital time is a privilege. Teach your teenager that homework and chores come before logging in to Facebook or watching a YouTube video.

Talk About Multitasking

Your adolescent will think they’re an expert multitasker. Explain to your teen how multitasking disperses concentration and that you are sure your teen’s homework will get higher marks if they are not texting or talking on their phone at the same time they are trying to solve a math problem or write an essay.

Establish Clear Guidelines

Most families lead busy lives and time spent together is priceless, so banish smartphones from the dinner table. Many adolescents admit to staying up late to check their Facebook account and even to waking up during the night and logging in. So, set a curfew on your teen’s computer screen and banish your teen’s cell phone from their bedroom.

Be a Role Model

If your adolescent points out that while you expect them to limit their use of electronics, you stare at your own smartphone screen or computer just as much, you are sending the wrong message. You will only be a good role model if you limit your own screen time.

Encourage Time Away From Electronics

Do your best to encourage your adolescent to leave their smartphone behind and get some physical exercise during the week. Take the dog for a walk, shoot basketball hoops, do some yard work. On weekends do things as a family – hiking, sailing, playing tennis, visiting the local rock climbing gym. Take a break from the digital world every now and again with a completely screen-free half-day once a week. And, consider an extended digital detox like a seven-day vacation without electronics.

Include Your Adolescent in Screen Time Discussions

Before deciding on media limits with your teen, make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Once you have a strategy in place, hold informal family meetings on the subject of online time. Encourage input from your adolescent, and problem solve together. Make it clear that regulating screen time is not a punishment but that you want your teen to have a healthy relationship with electronics.

The Bottom Line

As reported in a previous article, it’s quite evident that excessive screen time can be harmful to adolescents. Interacting with digital technology is not going to disappear from your teen’s life, so it’s important to teach your adolescent how to use it in a sensible and responsible way. If you need help with any teen problem caused by your teenager’s online life, talk to Doorways to see how we can help. An initial discussion with one of our trained teen counselors won’t cost you anything except some offline time.


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