Dr Danielle Einstein explains the importance of getting the buy-in of a partner or support person before tackling device addiction with teenagers.
As the parent of a teenager, you might feel like you’re losing the battle over screen time, and you are not alone. Most parents were unprepared for the onslaught of problems that smartphones, tablets and homework completed on laptops have stirred up. Devices have become a permanent part of our lives, and while they bring many positives, the type and amount of use needs to be met with a mixture of understanding and caution.
As a clinical psychologist specialising in device addiction, and a mother who has encountered these challenges in my own home, I know that one of the most important factors in successfully taking control is - support.
Perhaps you and your partner have both voiced concerns about each others' or your kids’ device use at various times, but haven’t taken action yet. There will be ebbs and flows in your desires to put changes in place. One partner may be more committed than the other, and the level of commitment can change just like the weather, from day to day. An open, non-judgemental conversation with some healthy self-examination of your own habits will set you up for success with your kids.
If you are a single parent, think about who can support you through this process. Is there someone close to you that you can help you make decisions about sensible boundaries and support you through a few hours when you meet resistance? It might be a grandparent, a friend, an online group (ironically) or you could use The Dip Community Page, which is designed to be a support for parents through these changes.
Before you sit down with your kids for a family ‘tech meeting’, it’s important to understand the intentionally addictive nature of devices and how they can impact our mood and emotional health. You can find out more about the effect of screens on our dopamine and serotonin levels, and how these can send us on an emotional rollercoaster in The Dip - a practical guide to take control of screen addiction and reconnect your family.
When you have a discussion with your partner or support person, it’s important to explore the changes you want to make together. It's useful to think about the following:
How many hours are acceptable during a weekday or on a weekend?
What are the places in the house that you want to eliminate devices from?
How do you each need to make changes to your own home lives?
Do you need to plan more joint family activities?
Once you and your partner have agreed that action is needed to reconnect your family, a united front, as well as modelling the desired behaviour, are crucial to bring about change in your kids.
Consider joining our upcoming 3 day challenge to learn a little more about how to cut down on device interference in your relationship with each other.
Like everything in life, there will be slip-ups and you won’t be perfect, but don’t be too hard on yourself, this is all part of the learning process.
For more guidance on setting healthy device boundaries with your family, get your copy of The Dip - a practical guide to take control of device addiction and reconnect your family.
Dr Danielle Einstein is a clinical psychologist specialising in understanding the impact of devices on mental health in teenagers. She is an Adjunct Fellow at Macquarie University and an Honorary Associate with the University of Sydney.