Win smart­phone strug­gle

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Sunday Mail - - NEWS - RE­BECCA BAKER

PAR­ENTS have two sim­ple choices when it comes to kids and elec­tronic de­vices — set some bound­aries, or do noth­ing and “take your chances”.

So says US-based so­cial me­dia ex­pert, au­thor and mother of a teenage girl Lisa Buyer.

“Par­ents of teens have it rough these days thanks to a new cock­tail: Smart­phones laced with so­cial me­dia apps,” she told the Sun­day Mail. “The mix is so po­tent it can take over your teen’s life and so dan­ger­ous it can lit­er­ally open the door to stalk­ers. (Un­for­tu­nately), as the first gen­er­a­tion of par­ents with teens who have grown up with so­cial me­dia, there’s not any his­tor­i­cal data or ad­vice to help guide us.”

The Univer­sity of Florida as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor says as hard as it is, par­ents must step up and set some rules — even if that means con­fis­cat­ing a de­vice from time to time.

“The so­cial me­dia and smart­phone strug­gle is real and ev­ery­one needs help ... we all seem to recog­nise the problem but the path to so­lu­tions is not easy,” she says.

Prof Buyer has spo­ken to the Sun­day Mail on the back of News Corp’s Pulse of Aus­tralia on­line sur­vey, show­ing two-thirds of par­ents have some level of con­cern over the amount of time their chil­dren spend on dig­i­tal de­vices.

Con­cern is high­est among par­ents of teenagers with 82 per cent re­port­ing some level of con­cern over their teens’ screen us­age and 23 per cent be­ing “ex­tremely con­cerned”.

One mum of a pre-teen child who re­sponded to the sur­vey told how her child had lost in­ter­est in ev­ery­thing “other than the tablet” – “cry­ing and fight­ing when told to fin­ish up”.

Sadly, says Prof Buyer, this isn’t un­usual and she took her own 15-year-old daugh­ter’s phone from her for a week, frus­trated it was be­com­ing all-con­sum­ing.

“(It was) the most crip­pling thing a teen could ever imag­ine ... it was not easy but the ben­e­fits were amaz­ing,” she said. “(On day seven) we watched movies, hung out to­gether and went to the beach. That night she handed me a three-page let­ter telling me what a great week­end she had with me and I loved hear­ing all the sto­ries.”

Glenelg-based Stay Ac­tive Chil­dren’s Sports Pro­grams man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Carly Fuda agrees, say­ing it’s im­por­tant fam­i­lies rou­tinely in­clude “screen-free time” as part of their lives. “Set bound­aries for screen time while in the home and rules for use in shared spa­ces only (not bed­rooms),” she says. “Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with chil­dren over meals will al­low par­ents to find out what ac­tiv­i­ties they en­joy do­ing and per­haps plan an out­door ac­tiv­ity for the week­end.”

Ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey, the most com­mon rules par­ents do set for their teenagers are around not talk­ing to or “friend­ing” peo­ple they don’t know (58 per cent) and not us­ing their de­vices at spe­cific times, such as meals and bed­time (49 per cent).

Prof Buyer sug­gests parental-con­trol apps can also be use­ful. “I have found the OurPact app to be very good be­cause you can block apps, al­lo­cate data time per app and also have a sched­ule of when apps are avail­able and not,” she said. “For ex­am­ple I shut down all apps on my daugh­ter’s phone at 10pm oth­er­wise she is up all night.”

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