Technology overuse is ranked as the No. 1 fear of parents of teenagers in a national survey last year. There’s some alarming statistics about how much time teens are spending on their phones each day, leading health professionals to question whether the addiction is harmful. According to Common Sense Media, 98% of families with kids now have smartphones. Young kids average 2 hours per day, tweens average 6 hours a day, and teens clock in an average of 9 hours per day. NPR reports that some parents are resorting to detox programs to treat teen tech addiction. 

An Increase in the Use of Cellphones and Social Media 

Both sides of the debate were addressed in a NPR story this week.  Based on a study analyzed by psychologist, Jean Twenge, she believes that the increase in teen depression and suicide is correlated with an increase in the use of cellphones and social media.  She published a book on the issue called, iGen, Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us. Other researchers analyzing the same data, conclude that the correlation between mental health and the use of technology is too small for concern. Another researcher suggests that the increase use of technology may be more of a symptom than a cause of mental health problems, or that high usage may be driven by different variables, like lack of parental support or other health issues.  

Another media story highlights the research of a new disorder called “nomophobia”, or the fear of not being able to use their smartphone at anytime, leading to problems with driving, staying off phones at school or work, and leading to fights with a spouse or partner.  

The NPR story concludes: 

So why should the average parent worry about this scientific controversy? Because, Keyes says, when parents simply demonize phones, "there's less of a communications channel" about what teens are encountering online. A parent's opportunity to mentor or support positive uses of media is replaced by "confrontation on a day-to-day basis." Well-meaning parents, wrongly believing the phone to be as risky as a cigarette or a beer, may actually be making their children's lives harder by fighting with them about it.

Take these five strategies for parents dealing with screen-addicted kids:

  1. Pay attention to your kid’s emotional relationship with screens, not just screen time. 

  2. Don’t just make technology rules based on time.

  3. It’s okay to ban phones during bedtime and mealtime.

  4. Don’t expect taking away the phone will save all your family’s problems. 

  5. Mentor your kids, don’t just monitor them. 

The family law lawyers at Molly B. Kenny, LLC know that rebellious teens can lead to issues involving custody disputes during divorce proceedings, or potential changes in custody in post-divorce situations.  When you need advice or assistance dealing with custody of your teens, contact the divorce lawyers at Molly B. Kenny, LLC

 
Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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