The average teenager devotes approximately 53 hours every week to “entertainment media,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. A large portion of this time is often spent on the computer, but unfortunately, there's a good chance your teen isn't researching a paper or enriching himself through knowledge. Creating ground rules for computer usage not only helps keep teens safe, it also reminds them there is life beyond the laptop.
Sit down with your teenager and discuss his access to the computer. For instance, make it a rule that all homework and chores must be completed before he's allowed to play a video game or chat online with friends. Create a chart that details how long your teen can remain online or playing games, but allow him input. If you feel one hour each day is enough, but your teenager wants two, listen to his reasons, and consider meeting in the middle. Whatever the decision, Common Sense Media recommends checking in on your child every 20 to 30 minutes; take the opportunity to discuss what he's doing and encourage him to take a break.
Using the Computer at Home
Create rules involving where your teenager is allowed to use the computer inside the home. If you have a desktop, the Child Development Institute recommends placing the computer in a shared area, such as the living room or den. Insist your teenager use his portable laptop in a family room, as well. Many cellular phones have access to the Internet, so you'll want to limit your teen's use of the device while in his bedroom. If your teenager is unwilling to abide by the rules, and takes his laptop behind a closed bedroom door, consider punishing him by taking away the technology for one day.
Many teenagers stay connected with their friends through social media websites, including Facebook and Twitter. Both are an inexpensive and enjoyable way to remain socially active at home, but are unfortunately fraught with potential dangers. Before allowing your teen to launch a Facebook or Twitter account, sit him down and discuss a few rules. For instance, insist your teen never post any personal information on either site, including a home address or telephone number. Remind teenagers to remain thoughtful when posting or sharing pictures. It's never acceptable to share an inappropriate picture or participate in cyber bullying. It's acceptable for a parent to “friend” or “follow” a teen, but don't use social media as a way to keep tabs. However, if you do notice inappropriate behavior, don't hesitate to speak to your teen or limit his access to the site.
No matter how much a parent restricts access or monitors a teenager's behavior, young people are still at risk for developing a computer addiction. According to the addiction treatment center CRC Health Group, signs of computer addiction in teens include irritability and frustration when not being allowed online, loss of interest in friends and falling grades. If you suspect your teen is suffering from a computer addiction, CRC Health Group recommends seeking help for your teen in the form of outpatient therapy or counseling.