Many of you may think it's too late to start these conversations with your teens, especially if they have already been using technology for years. However, it's important to remember that it's never too late to make a change, you just need to know how. Teens are capable of understanding the importance of digital wellness and are likely to respond positively to clear, consistent rules and expectations. They really aren’t anti information, they actually LOVE it! Have you watched over their shoulders as they watch TikTok or IG reels? A lot of them are teaching a skill, technique or facts. They soak it up. You need to come at them from a place of understanding, curiosity and with a willingness to have a two-way conversation.
When we think of digital wellness for teens, we often think of monitoring screen time. While setting boundaries around screen time is important, there's so much more to digital wellness than just that. It's also important to talk to your teens about posture, balance with offline activities, intentional use, lifting up of others while online, productivity, and so much more. These topics can be difficult to broach, but they're essential to ensuring your teen has a positive experience online.
One way to make these conversations easier is to lead by example. I’ll be the first to put my hand up and admit this was NOT me. I had to have an “awakening” , let's say, where sometime between my mom life and my classroom life, I realized there was a massive gap in our kid’s education. Digital citizenship was always talked about, it’s in the curriculum and everyone knows about it. But where was the digital wellness? Where were the discussions that taught them how to thrive alongside something that’s never going away? Where were the discussions that gave them practical techniques for taking care of their physical and mental health? I HAD TO START WITH MYSELF! Kids watch us, and they are the first ones to throw it back in your face, “but you don’t!” Show your teen what it means to have a healthy relationship with technology by modeling positive digital behavior. This can include taking breaks from screens, being mindful of your online activity, and setting clear boundaries around technology use in your own life.
It's also important to be proactive when it comes to digital wellness. Instead of waiting for a problem to arise, start the conversation early and often. Encourage your teen to ask questions and share their own experiences with you. As soon as I genuinely showed interest in my kids’ apps and online life, they shared and showed me more. They started showing me features of different apps, they asked me to send Snap “hellos” to their friends, and they are willing to answer my questions. By doing so, you'll create a safe and open environment for them to discuss any issues or concerns they may have.
In conclusion, it doesn’t matter whether you're a parent/guardian or teacher, it's important to prioritize digital wellness for tweens and teens. By starting these conversations early and often, we can help our children develop healthy habits that will serve them well throughout their lives. Remember, it's never too late to make a change, and there are many resources available to help you along the way.
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