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University of South Florida

Digital Sanity Tool Kit for Parents – Part II

Going against the will of a teenager is not easy and can cause stressful situations to arise from literally nowhere, especially the first time he or she receives a message that their screen time is limited or their access to a website is blocked. Although your teenager may express outrage, just realize it comes with the territory, and there are tools to help manage your teen’s screen usage.

Approximately 40% of Hillsborough County high school students from 9th to 12th grade spend three or more hours outside of school work on playing video games, using a computer or iPad, texting, and engaging with social media, according to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results for Hillsborough County Schools.

That’s why creating a screen time balance for your teen is important. It helps teens develop better sleep habits, encourages interaction with family and friends in person, and the pursuit of their interests.

We provide parents with information on tools to help evaluate their teen’s time, guide media usage, and set time and access limits. These tools help parents monitor and provide guidance on social media posts, texting, app usage, website browsing, TV and movie viewing,” said Dr. Diane Straub, USF Health pediatrician specializing in Adolescent Medicine.

  1. Evaluating Screen time

The American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP offers a media time calculator, to estimate and help set your teenager’s daily discretionary screen time after time is allotted for school work, meals, sleep, physical activity, personal care, chores, and family time. Once you have a better idea of your teen’s discretionary time, daily screen time limits can be set by a parental monitoring app, if you choose that option.

  1. Content Assistance – Commonsense Media & Harvard’s Center on Media and Child Health

Commonsensemedia.org, as well as other online media guides for parents provide thoughtful commentary on individual movies, games and apps. If you are not sure about a movie, watch it with your child to make sure it’s appropriate,” Dr. Straub said. Commonsense media provides great articles on social media channels and gaming, so you can have fun too. Research topics cover a range of compelling issues for parents from the social life of teens on social media, kids and privacy, and finding balance.

Harvard’s Center on Media and Child Health is another great online resource for providing assistance to parents and teens on the positive benefits and concerns surrounding media usage. The Center translates current research into practical, actionable guidance for parents to enhance child development in the digital age. This website offers an extensive variety of research-based articles, an informative podcast called Ask the Mediatrician, and an open for submission blog called Media Moments.

  1. Setting Access and Time Limits

There are many free, readily accessible ways to safeguard kids from inappropriate content, such as Google Safe Search. Operating systems such as Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon have parental controls built into their digital devices that can be selected to set restrictions. If you have an iPad or iPhone, Apple Screen Time settings allow parents to manage time spent on individual apps and games, as well as what your teen can download.

Parental monitoring apps such as Qustodio and Net Nanny offer the ability to manage overall time spent on a digital device, determine access windows, as well as designate time limits for social media channels or apps. These services also block websites, filter content, and overall allow parents to see their kids’ digital activity.

Bark, Kidbridge, and WebWatcher monitor text messages, social networks, emails, and other mobile functions. Some services offer alerts, so parents receive notifications if their teen is viewing inappropriate content or messages are of a concerning nature.

All of the parental monitoring apps offer a range of functionality and monitoring control, as well as varied pricing. Some apps do not offer time limits, just monitoring access, and some apps are better for different phones and devices. It depends on what screen time behavior you are trying to curb in your teen.

Be prepared that teenagers are incredibly smart and techy. With Google search, about anything is possible these days. Teenagers can deactivate parental controls on their devices and evade parental monitoring in a myriad of ways. So, do your best to promote honesty and healthy conversation with your teen.

“Encourage teenagers to ‘stop and think’ before they respond via text or social media. It’s important to talk to your kids on a regular basis about their privacy and their digital footprint,” Dr. Straub said.

For specialized care for your teen, please contact USF Health Pediatrics at (813) 259-8700.

Written By; Kathleen Rogers

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