Teenagers hide away, for hours at a time, interacting with their video games or iPads. As parents, we get frustrated wondering, is this healthy? Should I be concerned? Is technology bad? Does all this time they are on screens, connected to their phones, increase their anxiety and depression?
There are so many opinions out there, telling us that technology is bad for kids. But, can’t it also be good for them? A creative outlet, or way to connect with friends afar?
It is a complex issue and there is no clear answer on the direct effects for kids. Technology is here to stay, and it is a part of our society. What can you do as a parent? First, you must understand the risks. And then take action to help your child have a healthy relationship with technology.
How can screens affect stress and anxiety?
Is it really the technology that increases anxiety, or how teenagers interact with it? Here are the ways in which the use of technology could affect the overall health of teenagers.
- Physical Stress – Often times, kids who spend a lot of time online or on screens, are inactive. They are missing important physical activity that helps release endorphins. Their sleep schedules may also be affected which can affect their mood and ability to cope with stress.
- Constant Connection – I am sure you have seen how your teenager just can’t put their phone down. Often they are afraid they might miss an important message. I’ve seen my own child put their phone down for 20 minutes only to return to 50 text messages. Your child feels that they can never have downtime. Or that they can never escape from these social interactions, this drains their energy.
- Social Media – If your teen is on social media, be aware of all the ways that this can affect them. Social media platforms encourage comparisons, with a constant need for likes and social validation. This is difficult with teens who are still developing their self esteem and sense of identity. Teens do not always have enough life experiences to help them understand what is real or not.
- Stress of Gaming – When kids are playing video games, they are in a constant state of stress. Their brains are in a state of fight, flight, or freeze. This perpetual stress can increase their anxiety and impair their ability to cope.
Before you throw those video games in the trash and ban your child from the internet for life, remember that there can be many benefits to technology and it will always be a part of their life. They just need to learn how to have a healthy relationship with it. And you can help!
Build a healthy relationship with technology
First of all, the most important part is to have your teenager be part of the plan to determine what will work for them. They need to be able to reflect on their own time and usage and make adjustments. You can help them be aware of their feelings and take action. (P.S. These are good for adults too!)
- Balance – Have your teen take breaks from being online and plan dedicated time away.
- Take Up Other Hobbies & Interests – encourage teens to go after their other interests or things they may enjoy, such as sports, fishing, volunteering, etc. These activities will give them other purpose and help build their self esteem.
- Socialize – Although teens connect with friends online, it is still good to encourage time for them to meet up in person. Kids are still developing their relationship skills, and in person encourages them to be active together and engage in a common interest.
- Physical Health – Help your teen understand the importance of having a healthy diet, getting exercise and having a consistent sleep schedule. You can help them note (in a non judgmental way) how these can adversely affect them when they don’t eat well, are inactive, or don’t get adequate sleep.
- Encourage Creation – One main benefit for technology is to use it for a creative outlet, or to pursue a passion project. This goes beyond just consumption such as watching videos, playing games, etc. Instead, they could be creating art, making their own videos, or connecting with others on social justice issues and taking action. Has your teen found a good way to create vs. consume?
There are many things that could contribute to increased stress and anxiety, and it can’t all be pinned on the use of technology. But as with all unhealthy habits, they can contribute to the negative outcome of anxiety. Therefore, you need to focus on building healthy habits and ways to live with technology, because it will continue to be a part of their lives.
If you need guidance in how to help your teen, please connect with one of us and we would love to work with you!