Teens and screens: Is it all bad news?

Parents often hear about the negatives of kids being online, but let’s keep it in perspective.

Student with tablet

Image source: Thinkstock

While reading and talking about the dangers of electronics overuse and perils of social media, it may be tempting to think that the internet, cell phones and social media are all bad. But we know that these things provide important connectivity and convenience for our lives.

There’s good news for our children as well. The internet gives our children instant access to information that used to be available only in libraries and expensive encyclopedia sets. It facilitates classroom education and research for papers and school projects. I’ve watched my own kids learn some pretty impressive craft projects and how to fix computer issues at home via YouTube videos and forum Q&A’s.

Social media is an outlet for our more introverted kids and adolescents who may not be comfortable speaking their minds in a classroom setting. It allows young people to explore different ideas, philosophies and ways of viewing the world.

Certainly there are pitfalls to all this access and autonomy. We can’t allow them to go headlong and unguarded into the world without our guidance and attention.

One can also look at social media as a vast social learning opportunity. By keeping an eye on what young people are saying on social media and how their friends are responding, parents have the opportunity to catch hints at depression and isolation, signs of bullying, and chances to talk about how to handle complex social, religious and political conversations.

Keep the lines of communication open and talk to your teens about responsible screen use. It may not seem like it sometimes, but they are listening!

Here’s a link to an interesting article in the New York Times by Dr Perri Klass about this issue.

In my next “Teens and Screens” installment I will address screens and adolescent depression.

Stay well!