3 Ways Parents Can Help Keep Teens Safe Online

Teenagers have access to more digital media than ever before, and overuse can affect their health and development in a variety of ways. How can parents help them find balance?

TV, video games, social media, and other forms of digital entertainment occupy teenagers for nearly seven hours each day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Scientists and physicians are still learning what all that exposure to technology does to health and the brain—early research points to some troubling effects—and parents may struggle to regulate it.

“Today’s parents are the first with children who have access to technology 24/7,” says Jessica Wong, BA, CPP, Director of Business Development and the Patient Care Network at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a nationally renowned addiction treatment provider. “We can’t reference established parenting techniques to learn how to navigate this world because it’s completely new.”

Help for Pioneering Parents

On November 20, Wong—a mother of teenagers and an expert on teenagers and technology—will present Warp Speed: Parenting and Working with Teens in a Digital Age at 6 p.m. at 29 Pines/Sleep Inn & Suites Conference Center Eau Claire. The event is open to the public and is part of HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals’ 3D Community Health Series. Here is a sneak preview of the important information Wong will share with parents:

  1. Many parents think technology is harmless, but that is a myth. Heavy use of entertainment technology may slow development of the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with decision-making, planning, and risk assessment. That can make teens more willing to engage in risky behaviors, such as substance use. The ability to access information in an instant may harm teenagers’ capacity to store and recall facts. Overuse of social media has also been linked to poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.
  2. Balance is key. “Teenagers need to know how to use technology to succeed in school and their careers, but balanced use needs to be encouraged,” Wong says. “One of the most effective things parents can do is take away devices overnight, because uninterrupted sleep is critical for teenagers’ development. Parents can also set up family media contracts and require teenagers to share the passwords to their devices as a way to earn and build trust.”
  3. Parents should stay informed about technology and how their children use it. If teenagers want to download a new app or join an unfamiliar social media network, mom and dad should check it out first and pay attention to potential ways their child may be put at risk.
 For more information about Warp Speed or other 3D Community Health events, call 715.717.1600. Register online for upcoming classes or events at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital or HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital.

You may also be interested in “Is Your Teen Sleeping Enough?