By Michael Klinkner
If you are a parent to a tween or teen, you know better than anyone how much time they spend on electronic devices. Unfortunately, research shows increased exposure to social media, texting and gaming often results in negative side effects like decreased self-esteem, trouble relating to adults and peers, and even difficulty sleeping.
Implementing a digital detoxing strategy is especially important for children and teens because their brains are still developing. Kids in this age range are more susceptible to the negative effects of technology on the body and nervous system.
If you are concerned about your child’s electronics exposure, consider these three tips to take a digital detox this November.
- Lead by example. Don’t be a hypocrite! If there’s anything teens don’t respond well to, it’s hypocrisy. If you expect your kid to cut back on their screen time, you should first reflect on your own reliance on electronics. For example, telling your kids they can’t use phones during dinner while you scroll on your own will only lead to resistance and probably an argument. Join in on the device detox and see how it impacts your own stress and engagement levels.
- Create healthy family boundaries regarding device usage. Setting down the devices together will provide a built-in support system. Ask everyone in the family not use their phones in bed or during meal times. Or try something like no devices after 8 p.m. on school nights. Doing a digital detox as a family will make it easier on everyone involved and maybe even lead to much-needed family bonding.
- Find replacement activities. The best way to get your child to put down their device is by filling their time with activities that are more fun, interesting and engaging than screen time. Game night, movie night, arts and crafts or a fun family outing are all good ideas. As the weather in Arizona becomes more palatable, take the opportunity to get outside and play tennis or go for a hike. Getting the kids involved in the planning is also helpful when it comes to getting their buy-in.
It is never too late to think about how much you want your teen – or yourself – to use technology. If you think your family could benefit from more boundaries when it comes to electronics don’t avoid the issue. The best bet is to take accountability for your role in the overuse and be transparent and honest about the impact device reliance has on mental health.
Device detox is not a one-size-fits-all strategy, either. Work with your family to create realistic guidelines and standards appropriate for your needs and hold each other accountable.
While limited exposure to electronics will feel uncomfortable at first, in the long run dedication to engaging with your loved ones in a more direct way will have mental and physical health benefits that will last for years.
Michael Klinkner is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Neurolinguistic Programming. He is also certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Klinkner provides individual, group and family therapy to children, adolescents and adults in Central Phoenix and Gilbert, Ariz. Klinkner focuses on treating a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma and ADHD. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/michaelklinknercounseling/ or https://instagram.com/michael_klinknercounseling