How much screen time?
According to the Washington Post in 2015, teenagers spend an average of 9 hours a day looking at screens. NINE HOURS. (Children aged 8-12 are on about 6 hours). It’s 2017, so I’d guess the times are slightly higher now.
Adults are on approx 4 hours a day in their leisure time, but obviously more if they sit at a desk with computer in front of them. Here in Australia, we have a particularly high engagement with our smartphones; some estimates are up to 10 hours a day (Source: ABC News May 14 2016).
It’s simple: switch off the wifi
When my son was approaching his teens, and had been given his first smart-ish phone by his Dad’s family for Xmas (which I had no say in unfortunately), a wise friend with a son 7 years older than mine gave me this advice: no screens in the bedroom.
Brilliant. Don’t let them lock themselves away with TVs or laptops plus smartphones; some kids text and message each other at 2am on a school night.
We all need to be asleep at 2am on a school night!
And here’s an even easier action: just turn off the wifi.
I know, shocking concept isn’t it? But it’s actually easier than you think, as the ‘Off’ button should still function despite lack of use.
I was a really difficult teen myself: rebellious, yet also racked with anxiety and insecurities. My poor Mum had her own dramas going on (I realize now), with the menopause, a challenging full time job as a single Mum, and various health issues she kept from us.
So I felt ill-prepared for my own journey as the mother of a soon-to-be-teenager, and chose to undertake a two-day ‘Parenting a Teenager’ intensive through our local youth centre. I then did a 6-week course, meeting other parents once a week.
In a nutshell, this is what I learnt:
- Open communication is essential (sitting side by side in the car is good for comfortable connecting, especially with boys)
- Parents must accept they are no longer the centre of their child’s world, although the child will always be the centre of theirs (this is really hard, and I think a lifelong challenge)
- Firm boundaries are incredibly important in giving your teen a sense of what to push up against
And my absolute favourite (which I love so much that I just spent 2 hours hand-making this image):
You all know this already, yes? I could have filled this post with other statistics and references, or examples of negative health & social outcomes, but it’s all out there and easy to find.
What I’m interested in on this blog together is what we already know, in our bones. And the movement or action we can take to honour that.
All of us who are over 20 have already embodied a life without the internet; we know what it’s like to talk on a landline to one friend at a time, then to have to say goodnight and sleep till morning, before reconnecting on the walk to school or the bus trip.
But the teenagers in our lives haven’t felt this; we need to do right by all of us, and shut the damn wifi down.
Ours goes off at 9.30pm, 10 at the latest, and stays on later at weekends (very occasionally till 2am I admit. But that is certainly not a habit). However, it ALWAYS goes off, so that we get a chance to unplug.
I’m not saying it’s easy. But I do feel it’s Right. What do you think? Or more importantly, how do you feel…?
With gratitude, G x