Manage teen cell phone use with this plan

Are you frustrated with your teen's cell phone use? 

The phone is always attached to their hand and their eyes are glued to the screen for ninety percent of the time you see them.  You've become accustomed to the classic SnapChat peace sign duck face that used to be your child!

Increasing technology and social media usage frustrations are not unique to parents.  And the impact of this screen time frequency CAN be something that creates distance and resentment in relationships.

When your main concern is connecting with your teen... 

  1. Invite your teen to connect with you by asking them to engage in a shared activity.  Instead of creating MORE limits and complaints that your teen will resent you for, create connection by asking them to participate in a positive or fun experience with you.
  2. Have screen-free zones like the dinner table or block out an hour before bedtime to all put down your phones.  Be mindful of what you're modeling too!  If you ask your teen to put down their phone, but field a work call in the middle of dinner, you're not modeling that the no phone rule is important and it will be hard for your teen to respect it too.

When your main concern is safety... 

Many teens report that social media use can create stress in their lives due to either comparing themselves to others or feeling left out when they see others having fun and they weren't invited.

There's also the added concern of teens who share too much or inappropriate information online or who have a hard time saying no and send nude or inappropriate photos over the internet.

Help your teen set boundaries!  Work together to create a plan that clearly outlines:

  • How much time your teen spends on the phone each day
  • What sites are helpful to look at vs. harmful or triggering
  • What friends are appropriate to connect with online and what to do when unknown people try to add or friend them
  • What information is appropriate to share on the internet

The phone is NOT the enemy! 

In DBT we always consider the pros and cons of any situation.  Your teen having a cell phone allows for you to stay in constant contact with them and ultimately keep them more safe.  It's also a great resource for information and education when used appropriately.

Parents can sometimes demonize cell phones when in reality they are a means of connection for our teens (and us.)  The more you can embrace that cell phone usage is the norm the better.  Past generations of parents may have disputed their teen talking on the landline for three hours after school everyday (I know mine did!)  When you continue to harp on the phone as problematic, you further the divide of the "parents just don't understand" stance and drive your teen to trust you less.

What's more, when you can stop viewing the phone as the problem, you can start to have a more realistic view of what the problem actually is.  This may be your teen's desire for attention or validation or a need for more impulse control.  What do you think is the NEED behind your teen's inappropriate cell phone usage?  When you can answer this question, it will give you the best course of action in how to proceed.

Act Effectively 

The DBT skill of Acting Effectively comes to mind in this situation.  When you know what you WANT to happen and how you want to feel, then you can make better choices about how act now to make that happen.

Putting the relationship with your teen first here allows you to build trust and create connection that will enable your teen to talk to you about difficulties rather than distance themselves from you and dive deeper into the online realm.

Here are a few ideas about how to get involved with your teen's social media usage while creating more connection in the relationship:

  • Offer to take a picture of your teen doing something so that they can post it to Instagram
  • Ask them to show you the SnapChat filters of the day
  • Enlist their help to create your own social media account on a platform that they use and ask them to show you the ropes (Your teen teaching you allows them to feel a sense of mastery and control which builds confidence too!)

Learn the Lingo! 

"Left me on red" is a SnapChat term that means someone didn't open their SnapChat

"Finsta" is a fake Instagram account that many teens have in addition to a main account.  This allows for them to share information with a smaller crowd and can be considered their personal group chat with friends

Have more questions about social media usage and teens? 

My team and I at the teen support center are putting together an online training to help you best support your teen in safety using social media.  If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, comment below and let us know your biggest challenge with your teen's social media usage.