Following quarantine restrictions helps prevent the spread of Covid 19, but it also puts extra stress on families who are all stuck at home together. During normal times, psychologists recommend that teens be allowed 2-3 hours a day of recreational screen time – which means free time to watch tv, or use their computers or phones for entertainment, such as social media or video games. However, teens are limited right now in what they can do, so allowing them some extra screen time for fun stuff may help lessen your teen’s levels of stress, anxiety, and boredom.
Educational and Recreational Screen Time
Recreational screen time does not include time spent on educational and healthy activities. Most teen students spend 4-5 hours a day taking their school classes online, and a couple more hours doing homework. Teens should also be encouraged to work out with exercise videos, or do yoga, Tai Chi, or dance. Gaming systems have exercise options, and streaming services, cable TV networks, and sites like YouTube offer thousands of exercise video options.
Screen time can also be used to take online courses and gain new skills. Teens could learn computer skills, such as coding, graphic design, or video editing. They can watch instructional videos for DIY projects or craft projects. Many schools are offering free online courses during the pandemic, that teach new skills or academic topics that may interest your teen. Local libraries now offer free video streaming with both educational and fun content. Your teen may want to learn more about art or music, or learn a foreign language, or how to play chess, cook, or knit.
Parents should also allow teens extra time online to socialize with friends. Let your teen video chat and have group meetings with friends, so that they don’t feel so isolated. Friends are important to teens and they need to be able to make those social connections and to share their thoughts and feelings during this difficult time.
In addition to all these educational and healthy activities, give your teen a couple of extra hours of free time online. As always, monitor what it is they are doing online, what kind of websites they visit, and how much time they spend online.
Encourage Teens to Enjoy the Real World
It’s also important to get your teen to participate in some outdoor activities – ones that are permitted during state and local Covid restrictions. Encourage your teen to take the dog for a walk, or do some work around the house and yard. Invite your teen to join you for a hike, a run, or a bike ride, or just a walk around the neighborhood. Insist that your teen not use their phone while you are together doing activities, like eating dinner, going for a walk, or doing projects around the house. Make sure you’re not using your phone either when you’re spending time with your teen.
Signs of Online Addiction
If your teen seems to be overly attached to playing video games or being on social media, watch for signs of addiction. Teens may be addicted if they become excessively anxious, irritable, or restless when they can’t access their phone or play video games. They may constantly check their accounts or games, become preoccupied with thoughts about their game or social media accounts, and lie about how much time they spend online.
An addiction will interfere with their life, cutting into their sleep, school work, and relationships, until their only focus is on their games or social media. If this sounds like your teen, you will need to take away their phone or gaming system, except for a limited time that you allow for recreational use. You’ll have to monitor them more closely when they work on classes or visit with friends online. Help your teen to find other, real-life activities to keep them from being bored. Spend time with them doing things you both enjoy.
Help for Addictions
If you are not able to wean your teen away from their phones, computers or games, and you are concerned that they have become addicted, then seek out the help of a therapist who specializes in working with teens. You may ask your teen’s therapist about sending your teen to a therapeutic boarding school to help break their addiction. This is an especially good option if you are having other behavioral issues with your teen, or if they are not doing well with their online schooling. These schools have safe and controlled environments, where teens would not be able to sneak access to their online accounts or games, while you’re sleeping or at work.
A therapeutic boarding school, like Sundance Canyon Academy, provides academic programs, and therapy to help teens cope with emotional and psychological problems that contribute to their addiction, as well as other behavioral problems. They also offer fun, activities like hiking, swimming, skiing, camping, and sports, so that teens can experience healthy, real-world ways to have fun.