Nurturing Healthy Technology Habits and Sleep Routines for Teenagers
Summertime arrived and as much as you would like for your teenager to embrace the sunny outdoors, you find them spending their nights immersed in the virtual world, engrossed in their computer screen. The next day they wake up late and groggy. Sounds familiar? Has this behaviour pattern raised your worries? As parents we might observe their sleep patterns becoming disrupted and their energy levels diminishing during the day. It’s common for parents to be concerned about the impact such excessive computer use is having on their teenager’s well-being and their ability to engage in real-life experiences and relationships.
As a Social Worker and a Psychotherapist working with adolescents and their families, I understand the concerns that many parents have when it comes to their teenagers spending too much time on devices and staying up later than what’s healthy. In today’s digital age, where technology is an integral part of our lives, finding a healthy balance can be challenging for adults too. Below are some considerations you may wish to take when addressing your concerns as well as some thought on working together with your teenager towards nurturing healthy technology habits and sleep routines.
Open the lines of communication:
Are you concerned? Engage in open andhonest conversations with your teenager about their technology use and sleep patterns. Encourage them to share their perspective and concerns. By fostering an environment of understanding, you can work together to find solutions that meet both their needs and your concerns. Too often, as parents we approach the subject with an authoritative or a blaming tone. Explore with your teenager their needs and reasons for this behaviour—this may result not only in a change of their behaviour but also in strengthening your relationship.
Set clear boundaries and expectations: Does your teenager know what you expect of them? Are there clear guidelines regarding technology usage and sleep routines? Involve your teenager in the process to ensure their buy-in and cooperation. Together, define screen time limits that are reasonable for both of you, establish designated no-tech zones (such as during family meals or before bedtime), and set a consistent bedtime routine that works for everyone and allows for sufficient sleep. As teenagers mature into adults, it becomes harder and harder to dictate the rules. As parents, we may need to negotiate with them. Ask yourself – what are my redlines? Where am I willing to compromise?
Encourage alternative activities: Is your teenager able to occupy themselves differently? Rather than expecting them to find excitement in mundane chores or responsibilities, motivate your teenager to explore a range of offline activities that contribute to their overall well-being. Encourage the pursuit of hobbies, engaging in physical exercise, spending quality time with friends, and exploring interests beyond the digital world. Sometimes, your encouragement may require your commitment as well, such as driving them to an activity or dedicating time to participate with them. By doing so, you not only help reduce their screen time but also provide valuable opportunities for personal growth and meaningful social interactions.
Model healthy behaviour: Take a moment for self-reflection and evaluate your own relationship with technology and screens. Recognize the significant role you play in influencing your teenager’s behaviour. Be mindful of your own technology use and strive to demonstrate healthy habits. Emphasize the importance of balancing screen time with quality family moments and self-care activities. By prioritizing these aspects, you can effectively show your teenager that technology has its place but should not overshadow other meaningful aspects of life. Remember, your actions serve as a powerful example for your teenager to follow.
Support them in establishing a technology-free wind-down routine: Engage in open communication with your teenager about the benefits of disconnecting from screens before sleep. Collaboratively set boundaries and establish clear guidelines together. Encourage and remind them of the importance of unplugging during the pre-sleep hours. Offer alternative activities or suggestions to make the transition easier, such as providing a reading lamp or recommending relaxing music. By actively supporting and participating in their efforts to adopt a technology-free wind-down routine, you demonstrate your commitment to their well-being and help them cultivate healthier habits for a good night’s rest.
Seek professional support if needed: If you have concerns that something more severe may be at play, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional mental health specialist who can offer crucial support. Connecting with an experienced psychotherapist who specializes in working with adolescents can provide valuable guidance and aid in developing a personalized plan to effectively address these concerns. Remember, seeking professional help is a proactive step towards ensuring the well-being of your teenager and your family, as a whole.
At the end of the day, finding balance in the digital age is a collaborative effort involving parents, teenagers, and even the broader community, such as the school and extended family. By collaboratively fostering healthy technology habits and promoting proper sleep routines, we can ensure that our teenagers grow into well-rounded individuals who can flourish both online and offline. It’s important to remember that even small changes can have lasting effects. Building a relationship based on open communication can make a significant difference in enhancing their overall well-being and facilitating success in all aspects of life.
Michael Gershuny, a Social Worker and Psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience in the community, serves as the Director of Counselling and Mental Health at The Counselling Group. If you require additional services for yourself or your family, we encourage you to reach out to The Counselling Group. Our team consists of registered Psychotherapists, Social Workers, and Psychologists who specialize in working with youth, parents, and families.