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Tips for Parents of Teens

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

During adolescents, teens have what is called, mirror neurons; which have been studied now for slightly over a decade. It is evident that most learning of behaviors and even character is more during observing the modeling from others than other resources. Parents can in fact teach their children vital lessons simply by walking the walk and modeling the character and behaviors; or skills that they want for their teens. Have you noticed that when someone smiles then you seem to automatic reflect this? If someone yells then you automatically seem to match that. This is due to these special neurons that our teens have during their construction phase of their brains.

IPHONES and social media must have monitoring apps in place due to the startling hyper-sexual culture that our children are into. 1-3 people viewing porn today are girls. Parents must be aware of what their children are viewing, set boundaries, have the app to monitor since the teens will not; and communicate with the teen what you see and about your concern. Do not lecture but have frequent and short conversations with your teen.

OUR recommendations for screen use:

  • No phone in bedrooms or isolation

  • 2 second rule if asked to see phone or lose phone. No hesitation allowed.

  • No password or code to enter phone or any apps allowed to be placed by teen

  • Parent can place passwords and codes to phone and apps to ensure none use until they are available.

  • Sit down and provide boundaries and concerns of the internet prior to providing them the access.

  • Time restriction to no more than a hour per day including school time on internet unless strictly to do homework-in public forum of home.

  • No phones or internet during evening 2 hours prior to bed and during bed due to the need to charge them and the problems of sleep.

  • No phones during family time

  • No phones at the table while eating

  • No phones when visiting with others in home or outside of home

  • No phones in school (there are other devices without internet that can be used to contact parent for transportation or during emergency that has no text or other use, which is safer, that the parent can have a passcode to use, and have control of the use.

  • Until the preteen or teen earns the right by responsible use of the device; all apps must be removed other than the school's and not social apps (instagram, chats, or other); (these have no filters and they have no way to monitor). Teens must earn more time as they learn how to responsibly use this device.

  • Monitors must be on the devices along with parental controls that exclude apps.

Social media has driven body image issues up to a rocketing 97%. Teens will have at least one negative thought of their body and image per day; but most are much often. Social media is credited for this since teens become easily addicted to seeking validation online through these sites-and then are at risk of negative comments which drives down their self image. Parents therefore are to model a healthy body image for their teens and daily point out great aspects as to who their teens are. Parents also must lock down any negative self talk while affirming positive self talk. When the teen complains of their body or beauty with lies and distortions then the parent must challenge these. Fathers should also daily give their daughters and sons affirming words and touches, and can leave little notes that say affirming words and encouragement. Hugs are very important. Some teens are comfortable as dad hugs them or pats them on the back-while others may need to be allowed to make the first move-so allow their own timing as to when they want a hug.

Eph: 2:10 speaks of us being a Master piece. This is what they need to know and to be told. The more validation received from home-the less they will need from outsiders.

When parents have mistaken or have erred then parents need to model a genuine, specific apology so as to teach this skill to their teen. Using please and thank you with each other and the teen will also reinforce this with their mirror neurons. Hang in there as you journey through this stage of life with your teen.

Further: Some more data and research that pertains to digital and screen use was borrowed and shared below-please read carefully.

Digital habits are disconnecting, un-socializing, and teaching negative behaviors and no character building skills. What creates a habit or addiction? It is a 3-part loop consisting of a cue or trigger, a routine, and then a reward that reinforces it.

Example: A person wakes and sees their phone right at their bedside and picks it up: Cue:

The person then scrolls to see if they have any messages or texts: routine

They then find something mentioning their name, or something cute: Reinforces/reward ( a rise in dopamine) or they find something negative about them and jump to their defense: reinforces ( a rise in negative and aggressive chemicals).

Those who market the apps and phones, i-pads, internet, TV, gaming design these to provide 24/7 entertainment with variety and constant reinforcements of points, excitement, wins, and fun to offset boredom and to create addictive mental chemicals. Changes are made frequently to keep the apps engaging and exciting. 10 minutes can be a challenge for us if we are in an environment of silence or if we are actually expected to engage in a real function. More ADHD and ADD behaviors is experienced due to lack of attention that is resulting to lack of need to persevere or to be attentive when things are not exciting.

While they are drawn into the screens, they find real life boring and will forsake their learning, live social connections, work, health, relationships, and play and lose vocabulary, patience, self motivation to persevere through hard tasks to achieve due to merit, IQ points, and find themselves lacking on how to create and grow relationships as their behaviors on the screen becomes most abrasive and unaccountable when they do not get their way of find someone disagreeing with them.

Although we can connect across the world-we become disconnected in real life from real life skills and needed character traits that will grow us since we do not learn how to interact or to relate, and since we do not know how to resolve conflicts or problems. We become so dependent upon our devices to find an answer (that may or may not be factual or advised) that we are helpless without WiFi and suffer meltdowns when we are denied access.

More and more data is being collected as to real dangers that most parents do not believe and deny are existing for their children.

Children under 2 are being placed in front of screens either for background noise as parents view their programs while the child watches or has their own noise makers. Parents falsely believe that their child is easily learning communication and social skills with the convenience of their screens when in fact, it is the parents direct interaction, teaching, coaching, modeling, reading to their children that provides learning. As parents are less engaged with their children today-depending upon the screen and school to provide their children's entertainment and education; they release their control as to what the child is exposed too and is in fact taking from the development of the child's natural brain and body's dexterity and growth, since skills are not being taught or used. Children are not learning to walk, self play, interact, or understand their world as they once did and much is being lost. Children are at higher risk of addictive brains and next to no real social skills. Children are exposed to highly aggressive and sexual content much to young and therefore do become addicted to devices and stimulation of such content-escalating the need for more graphic and harmful content, desensitizing to once shocking, repulsive, illegal, immoral content and now deeming this content as the new normal, acceptable and legitimate. With such input then the child or adult acts out in accordance to what they have been programmed as acceptable and entitled too-overstepping serious boundaries that are now disregarded. Etiquette is lost as we do not know how to act, nor care when in a group of others. Eye contact, politely asking questions and taking turns, the use of appropriate language (words, facial, and body), the appropriate tone of voice, courtesy, respect, a smile; with emphasis to prioritize others above ourselves; and a simple acknowledgement of the other is replaced with no eye contact, grunts, ignoring, isolation, and complete disrespect.

Of course I am not saying that we must return totally to how we once were-since I am aware that screens are the new norm; vital to many positive forums; but, let us see some statistics as to how we are effected by these screens when abused; and let arrive with and decision of the prudence to set limits and also to monitor ourselves, employees, and families-and then become more active in our relationships so as to un-do much harm that the screens are causing and costing us.

Screens cannot replace human contact and engagement and cannot create the needed character that our world needs.

  1. 4,700 respondents

to a study using a Time/Qualcomm poll of 7 countries including the USA admit that 24/7 need of connectivity results directly to poor sleep, attention, more errors in work or play, less interest in real life, less inability to resolve conflicts or to discern, lower judgment, less capacity of memory, and higher mood and behavioral issues.

  1. 24 hours of sleep deprivation results in 12-14% of glucose loss causing loss to social control and discernment.

  2. 40% of behaviors are due to autopilot-ed habits (good and bad)

  3. Dependency upon screens instead of learning how to factor and discern is like being attached to an umbilical cord for survival.

  4. This dependency is driving oppression as one suffering from the illusion of freedom.

  5. Out of 6000 children surveyed: 54% state that they are angry of their parents; stating they are distracted due to their screens, even during conversation., 36% are on phone too often, 32% state that their parent's screen use make them feel unimportant.

  6. In Brazil: 87% of parents are reportedly preoccupied with phones and their children would like to confiscate the screens from them.

  7. The electromagnetic radiation that is emitted from the phones are disrupting the circadian rhythms.

  8. The comments on screens are more rude, offensive, with profanity, belittling labels and threats.

  9. 89% of employees wasted time at work and 61% admit to wasting 30 minutes -1 hour of their employers time due to abusing their or the employer's screens. This is 130 hours each year.

  10. 52% are cyberbullying

  11. 7% cannot go to school due to the fear of school.

  12. 22% think that porn is good for society

  13. 33% are threatened via screens

  14. Kindergarteners who watch screens at mealtime are more likely to be overweight by the time they are in 3rd grade. Children and adults consume much more than intended when watching screens.

  15. AAP recommends parents to avoid screens for children under 2 and to limit screens due to the negative effects of medial which far outweighs any healthy effects.

  16. Studies done on 12, 24, and 36 month olds found that screens reduced the time children play due to their attention, their cognitive process is delayed and lowered, their memory and reading comprehension is also challenged; yet despite these findings 1/3 of children age 3 have their own screen devices in their rooms and are allowed hours of viewing; increasing more mood, behavioral and learning issues.

  17. Children and adolescents average 5 hours daily screen input preferring screens to most social gatherings; and do not apply themselves to quality work due to the amount of focus and concentration that such takes. Adults also in addition to their screen time at work or school.

Some questions that should be asked are: What factual data is on the screens viewed by my child; and is this data factual and correct or skewed. What kind of character traits are being built through this screen or app to my child, self? How does the video or app treat humans, family members, parents, authority figures? Is this program or app consistent with our family values? As a parent and an adult-you are the gate keeper to your child's mental diet and brain and to your own.

Consider what you and they are missing. Opportunities and memories with each other are missed. We miss teaching opportunities and endless options. They miss growing character and other vital skills: Patience, Kindness, Dependability, Trust, Safety, Discernment, Judgment, Relational tools, Affection, Appreciation, Anger management, Apology tools, Attention, and instead develops negative behaviors that are dysfunctional and unsafe. They lose cognitive and impulse control. They develop addictive neural pathways and health issues. Is the convenience and immediate gratification and excitement for them and an easier and immediate babysitter worth these costs? Do you not see what this has been doing to our youth and the increased dysfunctions of our society? Other factors do include a diet of gluten and sugar that also increase inattention and impulse issues. Basically it is the steady diet of mental and physical garbage that is causing the damage across the board.

Noise and constant stimulation decreases cognitive strength and increases stress and other mental health and behavioral disorders. Silence relaxes the brain and lowers stress more than music; and we need to limit our screens and create healthier habits that grow us, and our children. Our frontal cortex will be better at discernment and less stressed when we implement real limits. Yes it will be hard to turn this around but aren't we all worth it? Yes we will meet with anger and discord while implementing change but, the benefits far out weigh the frustration in this effort. As with other changes-consistency and providing a good model are your best weapons to fight this monster that is gripping our youth and eroding our families and society.

Other's which may include those above or add to those basic limits and recommendations to turn our generation around are as follows:

  • Not during meals, socializing events, study, work, worship, or sleeping time.

  • Apps that monitor and protect are a must. One recommended one is, "Covenant Eyes" for accountability for those who are viewing porn or like sites

  • Be online with a purpose and do not waiver from that purpose for no more than (adult-1 hour) or child (5-30 minutes depending upon age and accountability).

  • Increase character traits and skills with activities and dialogue while using etiquette.

  • Make life fun but reasonable since life is not all fun.

  • Encourage earning rewards with real and helpful behaviors that will grow the child. Not to exceed a healthy limit however.

  • If the app is not in line with healthy limits and morality then it is not allowed.

  • Charge phones and screens during the night away from the bedroom. No screens the bedroom.

  • Be honest with your screen time when on other's time. Add productivity remain on task since it takes approximately 15 minutes to reclaim focus when one attempts to multitask and loses focus. Take breaks to stretch if needed but try not to change one's focus off task to a different task that is not connected with the task at hand.

  • The frustration you experience with others dependence upon their screens is experienced by others; lead by example and break the habit/addiction with better habits that you purposefully want in your life.

Do Not Know if You Have a Problem with Screens? Take the following quiz:

  1. Do you sometimes lose track of time when scrolling in social media sites? TV, Websites, and like? yes or no

  2. Do others in you life complain about the amount of time you are using with technology? Or type of apps you are into? yes or no

  3. Do you check your phone first thing in the morning (not work related) yes or no

  4. Have you ever opted to be on your screen to watch tv, answer emails, text, or other instead of spending face to face time with someone (friend or family) yes or no

  5. Do you find yourself answering texts even if it means interrupting what you were already doing? yes or no

  6. Is your use of technology at work or school for personal interests? yes or no

  7. Do you watch tv, check phone, or use internet late at night? yes or no

  8. Do you often use or check your phone during meals or eat in front of the tv? yes or no

  9. Have you ever changed vacation plans due to learning there is not WiFi where you were going? yes or no

  10. Do you converse in chat, text online more to online friends than people you actually see in real life.

  11. Do you have 3 or more active online social media accounts that you visit daily frequently? yes or no

  12. If someone asks to talk to you or is talking to you, do you keep your phone close in case it vibrates, or glance when the screen lights up during that talk? yes or no

  13. Do you keep the phone in bed or next to bed? yes or no

  14. Do you check your email more than 2 times daily? yes or no

  15. Not counting work, do you spend more than 4 hours daily using electronic media such as TV, video games, phone and/or tablets? yes or no

  16. Do you feel overwhelmed on most days with all that you have to do? yes or no

  17. When you have fee time do you use the phone or another device to relax? yes or no

  18. Do you sometimes regret something you watched online or on TV, something you posted on social media? yes or no

  19. Do you find it difficult to sit through church or other social event or function including family without touching or checking your screen device often?

  20. On you day off, would it be hard for you to refrain from all electronic media? yes or no

Count your Yes answers. If 3 or less-you are calm and a great concept of balance of life and screen use, placing family and other social contacts above technology. If 4-9 then you are almost calm cool and connected in a balanced fashion but can easily get swept away in screen madness of not working on building a a few positive habits by setting limits and increasing relationships to a healthier engagement. If above 9-then you are barely calm, cool, or connected in the real world, highly stressed with screen time with little to no quality relationship time-not getting enough sleep, but if you answered 15 or higher you are on red alert! Professional help advised for the last two scores.

Self help books are available for those who may wish to first attempt to turn this on their own: Calm, Cool, and Connected 5 digital habits for a more balanced life; by Arlene Pellicane, and Growing up Social; raising relational kids in a screen-driven world by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane are two insightful books.

If you find that effecting change for yourself or loved ones is too daunting then please come and see us at Heal and Hope Counseling Services. We can help with your resolve to love and to protect your family from the damages of the screens and apps that have cost up more than we can afford to lose.

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