Updated: Jul 28
As we head into four months of quarantine and social distancing due to COVID - 19, my teen co-host Anna and I reflected about the role technology and social media have played during this time, on our 3rd podcast episode of “One Day You’ll Thank Me”.
I was hesitant to discuss this topic here because it has been talked about a lot already in many forums, but it is my mission to help support families keep balance in their home, especially when it comes to their kids and managing technology. I want to make sure that I am making this information accessible to parents, to provide them with the tools to discern what are best practices for them and their family.
What I have found over this quarantine, is that many of my clients are wrestling with how to manage technology in the home to keep the benefits of it and the fun things about it, but manage the risks that are also associated with it. We wanted to dive in further and share my perspectives as a therapist and a mom, as well as, share Anna’s perspective as a teen.
During our conversation, Anna shared with me that having parents that monitor her technology, she has a lot more time and app restrictions than many of her friends. Her experience has been that she really needs to be able to budget her time on certain apps and be discerning about what she is watching and how for long, because her time could run out quickly. As a teen, she can see that it helps monitor what she is doing so she doesn’t get caught up scrolling and scrolling aimlessly for hours, but she also feels that it takes the fun out of it, being worried that her time may run out.
As Anna’s parent, I feel that I have relaxed Anna’s time limits on technology...Anna disagrees. I expressed with her my concerns about how I see my clients becoming more isolated, spending more time on games and TikTok, and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling...versus having high-quality interactions with peers. That is a concern for me and also something that I would suggest that parents keep an eye out for.
As we discussed social media and teens, the topic of drama also came up. Is social media being used for positive interaction and sharing, or more as a means for drama and attention seeking? Anna acknowledges that teens often seek drama on social media and are using it primarily to talk about other people and friends, but it is also basically the only way to stay connected and in communication with friends and other teens they are in relationship with. It really can be viewed as a mixed blessing.
This new way of life and communication can be very challenging for all of us, but teens are really feeling disconnected and Anna sheds some light on what that may look like for them as she describes how she is feeling... left out at times, disconnected and just that feeling of missing out.
So how do we address the struggle to balance the benefits of technology (socialization, entertainment, informational) with the risks (increased irritability, power struggles between parents and adults, mood variability, loss of interest in "real life" interactions)?
What I have been sharing with the parents that I work with is to “be protective of their kid’s brain’s”
Make sure to keep them engaged in real life interactions... family dinners, family game night, walks with you and/or the family
Encourage them to utilize technology to get information, to socialize, take part in the positive and fun side of apps and video games, etc.
Keep an eye out for anxiety, depression, irritability after they have been on TikTok or Instagram for hours and hours and hours
Keep in mind that kids need stimulation, which comes in many forms and they are not getting it from the usual means with this quarantine going on, what I like to share is for each day to include “purpose” and “kindness. That looks like being productive somewhat every day and accomplish even the smallest task, help others, and be kind to those around them because this is a tough time for everyone, we all need connection
Obviously, this is a massive topic with tons of information out there. This is just barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to managing all of it. There are plenty of articles and recommendations to relax tech time, not be as strict, and others that say just reduce the time or take it away if there is a problem. Well, I feel it is not that simple and parents need to be armed with the best information to make the best decisions.
For those of you interested in learning more about this, I do have a mini-course in e-book format (also an audio added version) discussing developmental concerns and impact of technology on socialization, cognitive skills, real practical suggestions how to keep kids safe online. It is a resource that will allow you to narrow down some of the information. There is so much information out there and parents are constantly being inundated with contradictory articles and research studies, that it is hard to discern what are best practices.
To learn more about Dr. Egan's online mini-course called "Managing Your Family's Technology and Social Media", created to help parents eliminate power struggles, keep your family safe from internet misuse, and reconnect with your family, please click RIGHT HERE.
To hear the podcast in its entirety go to COVID-19, Teens, & Social Media
To learn more about Dr. Tara Egan, visit www.drtaraegan.com
To learn more about Dr. Tara Egan's private therapy practice, visit www.charlotteparentcoaching.com
To purchase Dr. Tara Egan's parenting books, please visit Amazon.
If you'd like to try BARK, a dashboard that monitors content on your child's technological devices, please use the code QSG7JBW to get 20% off. If you'd like to try Circle Home Plus to set guidelines around when and where your kids spend their online screen time, use THIS LINK to get $20 off. I use both of these tools to protect my children.