by Mike Miles
Your teenager has likely spent a lot of time online this summer. You might be noticing that her level of connectivity is backfiring now that school is back in session.
Does this sound like your teen’s routine? At the end of each day, she sets a morning alarm on her iPhone and then taps on her Facebook app one last time before calling it a night. Fast forward several hours: the smart phone alarm goes off and before she puts a toe out of bed, she immediately opens the Facebook app to see what she missed overnight. Then, and only then, will she get out of bed and begin her day.
This routine can be a distraction for teens and interfere with their studies. It can also interfere with their sleep. Studies show that, 44% of cell phone owners keep their phones by their beds. They don’t want to miss out on any texts, calls, or other notifications during the night.
Technology can also interfere with relationships and normal social interactions. Parents should insist that their teens have an understanding of cell phone etiquette. One useful starting point can be a parent-to-child cell phone contract that establishes guidelines as to where and when your teen may use his or her phone.
There is, however, another aspect to responsible phone use that many parents are overlooking—teens need to take time off from technology altogether. What if you, along with your teen, went cold turkey and agreed to put away your cell phone for a set period of time on a predetermined basis? It might be difficult during the week, when they need to be digitally connected in order to complete their homework. The weekend, however, could be the perfect time. It could be spending a Friday night with everyone’s phones and laptops powered off. Or a full weekend devoid of tech gadgets. Whichever it is, your entire family will gain from a digital detox.
Take the Digital Detox Quiz
Although it might be difficult to get your teen to agree to separate from his or her devices, a digital detox quiz can quickly assess the need. This true/false quiz prompts you to answer statements such as “You feel anxious about the next time you’ll be able to use your phone or computer,” “When you wake up in the morning, the first thing you reach for is your smart phone,” and “You have walked into a wall, pole, pothole, or other objects while looking down at your phone.”
After answering 21 questions, your teen might receive a recommendation to undergo a digital detox. Encourage your teen to be honest when answering – we’re all accountable for our actions, regardless of our age.
Consider again the earlier example of the teen; her last thoughts before falling asleep are of texts and notifications, and her first impulse upon waking is to open the Facebook app on her phone. It’s an unhealthy digital sandwich. Digital detoxing in the midst of a digitally-dependent world is a prime opportunity. Focus on what’s really important in life—personal relationships and real conversations—and not just the ones on the Internet!
Mike Miles is the Director of Social Media at SmartSign, a New York City-based company, and founder of #TakeNoBullies, an anti-cyberbullying and digital citizenship initiative for teens and schools.