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Digital Respons-Ability

Digital Teens in the time of COVID-19

As the mom of two digital teens, I have been paying special attention to how much time they are spending online during this time. I must admit I’m being generous with their online activities because I am finding that I, too, have increased my online time. We are all craving a connection that has been taken away from us.

Navigating schoolwork

Most of their school instruction in coming through CANVAS, Zoom, and other technological resources the schools have set up. Luckily for me, both of my kids are conscientious and manage their assignments and school time well. Work is getting done and turned in, but what I have discovered is that they have a lot of extra down time.

During a regular school day, their downtime would be filled with social interactions – discussions in class, meeting a friend at their locker between classes, acting silly at lunch, or participating in their chosen sports and school clubs and activities. But we are all at home alone with just our immediate family members to be social with, and quite frankly, that leads to them spending much more time alone in their rooms and on their electronic devices.

Digital teens & mental health

Teens are not built to be solitary all the time, and many of them are reaching out through social media and other spaces to engage with friends. This can lead to some unique challenges as parents. How do we know who they are spending time with online, what exactly are they talking about, and how are they staying healthy during this time?

1) Ask them: Have a conversation with your kids and ask whom they have reached out to, what are they talking about, what forms of communication they are using, and how much time they are spending on screens.

2) Create non-digital time and stick to it: Make dinnertime non-digital, have a bedtime for electronics; and set these guidelines for the entire family.

3) Exercise and meditation: Research shows that exercise and mindfulness and/or meditation are great ways to deal with anxiety. Making time in your day for both and encouraging your teens to do the same can result in positive effects on your mood and behavior in your family.

In subsequent emails, I will go more in depth on each of these three topics, but in the meantime, give your teens a break, talk to them about difficult issues, tell them you are proud of them, and lead by example. (And check out how to create a Family Media Plan with them!)

Lori Gillespie
Trainer, Digital Respons-Ability

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