Empowering teens to make healthy choices

Written by Harriet Fagan. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on November 09, 2011 with No Comments

A Parade Magazine article entitled “Born to Be Wired” is a thought-provoking must read for any parent or guardian of a child under legal age. The lengthy feature covers pros, cons, concerns and suggestions related to Generation Wired. Topics include discussion of the effects of time spent with digital technology and the physical “high” some of this technology produces in a child’s brain.

According to the article, the average teen sends more than 50 texts each day; younger children spend more than 10 hours each week playing video games; and the amount of time all children spend online daily has tripled in the past 10 years. That adds up to considerable interaction between a developing brain and varied technology. In fact, a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found students between the ages of eight and 18 spend more than 7.5 hours a day engaged with computers, cell phones, TV, music, or video games.

Furthermore, 40 percent of middle and high school students are usually plugged into other media while on the computer. Such multi-tasking has it up and downsides. Over-engagement can develop the brain’s ability to sort through information quickly, but it also inhibits ability with deeper, more thoughtful aspects. There is also concern that the wired lifestyle may develop children who are very comfortable in the virtual realm but don’t do well interacting with real people and situations.

Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 report on the impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families is quoted in the Parade article. She says, “The digital landscape is a positive place for kids. It promotes a lot of healthy habits like socialization and a sense of connectedness to the greater world and to causes.” But, she says, children need guidance.

Yes, children need your help in learning to disconnect from the overwhelming world of technology in which they live. And, as in all things, you must model appropriate behavior yourself—in this case by restraining your own use of technology.

This issue of technology and children is multi-pronged and far too broad to cover completely in this month’s column alone. What we’ll focus on for now are the following guidelines pertaining only to the Internet.

1)You need to help your children learn about safe and appropriate behavior, not just safe and appropriate sites.

2)You need to become involved in your child’s online life.

3)You must teach codes of conduct.

4)You need to help your child think critically about what they post, read, and see online.

5)It’s up to you to make your child listen when he doesn’t want to hear.

You know very well how hard it is to keep up with changes in technology. Access to the Internet away from home has become far easier than we ever dreamed just a few short years ago and the future likely holds even more surprises. That’s why guidelines No.1 and No. 2 above are so important. You can’t possibly keep up with what’s out there; and, shockingly, even the Sesame Street website was recently tainted by pornography.

Your child knows his way around the Internet much better than you do and often that includes knowing how to get around filters, blocks, and history settings. He needs to know the basic moral principles for conducting himself on the Internet so that he can self-monitor. Your job is to teach him proper conduct.

Within the last couple of weeks, some very private health information about a popular area coach was revealed nationally when a former player sent a well-intentioned tweet. As with all of their actions, children need to take time to critically evaluate the possible implications of messages they send and receive as well as the information they find online. As stated in guideline No. 4, you need to guide them in critical thinking.

Finally, attempts at teaching your children how to be safe and responsible with technology is bound to produce resistance from them. Just when they’re at the age when they want to be more independent of you, there you are being “overprotective” again. So, when rebellion rears its head, just remember that responsible parenting has nothing to do with being a popular parent and everything to do with your child’s future development.

For assistance in determining how you’re doing so far at parenting your member of the Wired Generation, take the What Kind of Internet Parent Are You Quiz that Parade provides at www.parade.com/news/quiz/what-kind-of-internet-parent-are-you.html.

You’ll also find helpful guidance via video at www.media-awareness.ca/eparent/english.

Share This Article

About Harriet Fagan

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Harriet Fagan is a mother, grandmother, freelance writer and former educator; she creates this column under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.).

Browse Archived Articles by

No Comments

There are currently no comments on Empowering teens to make healthy choices. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.