School is done, lockdown is easing, but most of us are still working from home, and the prospect of weeks trying to entertain your offspring without giving in to a total gaming/social media fest, may already be causing you nightmares. We ask Alicia Drummond our in-House Parenting and Mental Health Expert and Founder of Teen Tips and the NEW Teen Tips Club how to handle the pressure
A May 2020 survey conducted by Churchill Insurance showed that just 44% of parents make it past lunchtime before their children are complaining of boredom, and the pressure to provide wall to wall entertainment can be overwhelming. Boredom is a feeling which has mixed reviews because it is the font of both risky behaviour in teenagers, and creativity. For parents the challenge is to allow enough boredom for creativity, but not so much that they will seek to alleviate it at any cost.
Spending hours on screens may not seem like risky behaviour, but gaming addiction is now a recognised mental health disorder, and in most families the biggest battles between parents and their children centre around the use of screens. As parents we need to protect them from harm whilst encouraging them to become responsible digital citizens. It is not the screens, but the mindless use of them, which causes problems. It’s all about balance.
A couple of hours of Minecraft or Fifa with friends is fun, challenging, creative and social, and when balanced out with a family board game, some exercise and a couple of household chores, not a bad way to spend a day. Scrolling through TikTok videos and social media feeds brings fewer benefits, but has its place in terms of feeling connected and current. Technology is not the problem, and there are lots of activities which are only really possible because of it, but teenagers need to learn to be discerning consumers to get the best out of it.
Work with your teens to create a family screen contract, and be prepared to negotiate if you want their buy in.
Next get them thinking about how they are using technology. Challenge everyone to come up with ten ways to use screens for good and then suggest they try at least ten of the ideas over the course of the summer, and commit to a minimum of two as longer term projects.
Technology doesn’t need to be just about staring at a screen for hours. It is brilliant for sparking ideas and providing platforms and information to help us do, learn, participate, share, get active, create and contribute. If your teenager is into running but struggles to motivate themselves to go alone, suggest they phone a friend who can become their virtual running buddy. Why not chat to a friend on Houseparty whilst painting, cooking or model making. Teenagers need to feel connected to their friends, but there is no reason why they can’t do something life enhancing at the same time.
If this has been useful and you want more, August in the Teen Tips Parents Club is dedicated to screens. There is a podcast with Jonathan Taylor, a Cyber Safety Expert who has some brilliant advice on how to protect your child from online bullying, sexting and grooming; a blog on Creating Responsible Digital Citizens and our Parent’s Guide to Apps, Screen Contract and Guide to Safe Gaming.
JOIN HERE and get a week’s free membership – member benefits include Cyber Safety Insurance for your whole family