Smartphone addiction in teens is becoming an increasing cause of concern among parents. However, the more petrifying worry is the content they read or watch on their digital devices. They could be accessing violent, distressing, fake, pornographic, suicidal or any other age-inappropriate content. They may also be sharing this content with their peers.
What should you do about it? Should you restrict your teens from using digital devices or monitor every minute of their screen time? Well, that’s neither practical nor advisable. Such extreme measures can create a relationship of mistrust between you and your children.
Here are some ways to deal with this situation the right way.
Have an Honest Conversation
Before you provide your teens with their own digital devices, make sure to sensitise them about internet dangers. Talk to them about phishing, cyberbullying, obscenity and other unsuitable content. Let them know that some content can adversely affect their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Do Random Checks
Imagine how you would feel if someone constantly peeps into your phone to monitor your digital footprints. Your children will feel the same way. So, do some random spot checks when your teens are using their digital devices. If their phones are password-protected, you can request them to unlock. If your teens refuse to unlock the password or allow you to use their phones, you should take it as a red flag.
When you buy your teens a digital device, you can install a parent control app in it. You can then monitor your children’s online activities from your phone. Your teens will remain conscious of what they are browsing online. In case your teen deletes the parent control app, it is a warning sign and you should talk to your child about it without raising your voice.
Let’s say, you found out your teens accessing some vulgar or unsettling content. While it is natural to get angry or upset as a parent, you must not lose your calm. Give yourself some time and discuss the matter with your spouse, partner or any trustworthy person. Once you decide on how you want to handle the situation, talk to your teens patiently and gently. Remember that your teens would feel embarrassed or fearful and expect the worst outcome for their actions. So, you need to address the matter delicately as a parent and an adult.
Listen to Your Teens
Allow your children to explain why they did what they did. Were they curious? Did their friends tell them about it? Were they under peer pressure? If they start arguing, then give them some time to cool down and approach them again for the conversation.
Work Mutually on Future Course of Action
Involve your children in deciding what parenting actions you should take if you catch them in the act again. Set some firm rules and guidelines on their phone usage. This kind of mutually-established course of action will hold your teens accountable for their behaviour in the future.
Adolescence can be a difficult period for your children. They might not know what’s right or wrong for them. It is your duty as parents to guide them appropriately as and when the situation arises.