Helping Teens to Regulate Technology Use
One of the most common presenting issues from parents of teens whom we see is that their son or daughter is “addicted to gaming”, or “won’t get off the Ipad and do their homework!”. Parents are often at a loss at what to do, and have resulted in confiscating technology, arguments at home, and ultimately impact on family relationships.
According to Australian Communications and Media Authority (AACMA), of teens aged 14- 17:
- 89 % have a mobile phone
- 69 % of mobile phone users have a smartphone
- 56 % use their mobile phone to go online
- 72 %t go online more than once a day.
They also found that the main reason teenagers in this age range access the internet is for ‘entertainment’ (i.e., gaming), or ‘communication’ (talking to friends online), (Ortega-Montiel, 2014).
Apps, video games, and social media platforms are made to entice, entertain and engage. So it is no surprise teens struggle to put the smartphone away.
So what do we do when tech use becomes harmful or excessive?
Here are a few things you might want to consider when helping your teen to regulate their tech use:
- Work in partnership with your teen to decide how much screen time is enough; and learn how to regulate screen time together. I find when I have these discussions, most teenagers are pretty reasonable about this! And decide together what an appropriate ‘consequence’ will be if they cannot follow the rules they’ve set for themselves.
Create a family media plan here:
- Designate media-free times together, such as during dinner or family outings, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Reconsider taking their device away altogether. We live in a technological world any many young people use their computer for homework, assignments, and socialising; therefore it is much more adaptive to teach our teens (and ourselves!) how to live in it and learn ways of monitoring use.
- Get to know the games your child is playing, and/or the apps and websites they are accessing. Not only does this mean you can help them to make safer choices about their internet use, but you can work towards creating an open dialogue with your daughter or son about their interests and reasons for logging on.
- On that note – consider more closely the reasons your teen may be using digital technology – is it as a means to escape? Is it an area in their life they feel competent and rewarded? Is it a means to connect with others?
Have a conversation with your teen about this, show an interest in their digital world, and understand what it means to them.
Don’t think of yourself as the ‘authoritarian’ but a ‘mentor’ for responsible tech use. Help them learn how to use technology safely and responsibly, just the way you taught them to ride a bike for the first time!
For more information on safe internet use, go to:
For guidelines regarding developmentally appropriate media use for children by the American Academy of Paediatrics, go to:
Useful parent fact sheets from the Australian Council on Children and the Media:
Written By: Ms Nadia Rizzi, psychologist at ACPC. Nadia is a registered psychologist who works frequently with teens, young people and their families.
American Academy of Paediatrics. Create your family media plan. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx#wizard
American Academy of Paediatrics. (2016, October 21). American Academy of Paediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-recommendations-for-childrens-media-use.aspx
American Academy of Paediatrics. (2017). Children Adolescents and the Media. Retrieved from
Jocelyn Brewer. (2016). Resources. Retrieved from http://www.jocelynbrewer.com/resources/
Ortiega-Montiel, G. (2014, July 1). Aussie teens online. Retrieved from