Help Your Teen Develop a Healthy Relationship with Technology During Uncertain Times

By Sue Scheff Posted August 24, 2020 under Guest Authors, Talking to Your Teen

A national survey conducted in 2018 by Screen Education revealed that more than half of teens in the United States (65 percent) were very concerned about their smartphone addiction.

The research found that although teens want to take breaks from — or even stop using — their smartphones, they soon realize it’s not possible. Many engage in what the Screen Education survey noted as cycling.

Cycling is the compulsion to consecutively go through a small set of favorite apps or sites to seek new notifications, at any opportunity, over and over again.

70 percent of teens who participated in the survey admitted to having three to five apps or sites they continuously cycle through.

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing school online, teens have further increased screen time — which can lead to added stress and anxiety. In fact, a recent Common Sense Media survey found that the pandemic has contributed to 65 percent of teens spending an increased amount of time texting or accessing social media. This rise in time spent on devices also means teens are continuously absorbing information, and sometimes misinformation, about COVID-19, which can cause unnecessary worry.

Helping your teen find a healthy digital balance is key to supporting their health and wellness. Here are four tips for you to discuss with your teen aimed at helping to curb their screen time and improve upon their digital health:


Turn off notifications and alerts. Beeps, bells, dings and other device noises can be stress triggers, especially for a teenager. The majority of teens (58 percent1) feel they have to respond to these notifications immediately.


Commit to a screen time curfew. Eighty percent1 of teenagers spend time on their phone after they get into bed. This results in lost sleep, which likely impacts their cognitive function.


Commit to device free family time. Make a diligent effort to have family time when everyone is disconnected from their devices. Mealtime is for eating, not emails or anything electronic. This is also a great time to discuss current events, especially knowing that teens may be concerned about the news they are reading online.


Get offline. Encourage your teen to make a habit of going outside and disconnecting 100 percent from technology. Sixty-nine percent1 of teens wish they could socialize in person rather than online with their friends. Unfortunately, during a pandemic, this can be a challenge. However, maybe your teen has neighborhood friends they can take a socially distanced walk with. Masks necessary. Digital devices unnecessary.


During these uncertain times, it can be difficult to know if your teen is struggling with an addiction to the internet or social media, or simply more consumed with their online lives out of necessity and boredom.

If you think your teen might have an internet addiction or an unhealthy relationship with their cell phone, you can learn more about the warning signs here and access other free resources.

In most cases, the best way parents can help their teen develop a healthy relationship with technology is by being a role model themselves. Leading by example might begin at the kitchen table, but it also includes your online behavior as you are your teen’s greatest influence.

Sue Scheff is an author and parent advocate. She is the founder of Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, Inc., which has helped thousands of families since 2001 with at-risk teenagers. Her first book, Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen continues to be a resource for many parents raising teens today. Sue’s latest book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, documents how cyber-shaming has become a national pastime and what we can do about it. Connect with Sue on Twitter and Facebook.

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