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A Message from Gen Z to Parents

How to help manage your teen’s relationship with technology in a digital world.

By: Keegan Lee, Director of Wellbeing

Dear Parents,

In an increasingly technologically dependent world, it is crucial for all ages to find a healthy balance between screens and life. However, it is especially important to place attention upon the generation that has been affected by technology and social media, the greatest- generation Z. In order to protect the mental health and healthy development of this generation, there must be conversations to help spread awareness and advocacy for the issues and dangers of this digital world. These conversations begin in the household, and as children get older and start to become more independent, there may be some tech disagreements between the parent and the teenager regarding tech use. This is where proper communication and empathy is essential in understanding the perspective of your teenager. The following article will provide tips and methods on how to approach challenges and conversations regarding tech use with your teenager.

As you approach the period of adolescence with your child, it is important to understand the psychology of this particular time in their development. Adolescence is a crucial time for self-exploration and independence. During this time, you may find that your teenager will want to branch out to explore new interests, hobbies, and passions. But one of the greatest aspects of adolescence is managing a social life and finding a group of people besides one’s family to navigate life with. Socialization during adolescence is crucial for mental and emotional health and plays a large role in the self-esteem of a teenager. This is one of the reasons parents may struggle with their teenager becoming more distant with them. Adolescents realize they are growing older and soon they will have to ‘leave the nest.’ They find it comforting to find people their own age to overcome the obstacles of the teenage years because it is something they can all relate to. Social media in particular helps teenagers connect and bond with others their own age. Understanding the importance of socialization during adolescence can help the parent empathize with their teen’s need to connect with other people besides those they are related to. However, when the need to connect and constantly feel a sense of validation from social media becomes obsessive in a teenager, this is when it is time to have a conversation.

1. Listening

Listening is a powerful tool that helps us empathize, comprehend, and respect others. When you are having a conversation with your teenager about social media and technology, whether it be agreements or disagreements, it is important to be completely present and listen to what they are saying to try and understand their perspective. This will allow them to know you respect them and where they are coming from without disregarding their thoughts.

Today, parents were raised in a completely different generation than teenagers. One where social media wasn’t existent and entertainment was spent in other ways. Generation Z is the first generation to be born into an increasingly dense digital world. Therefore, it is probable there will be tech disagreements because of the drastically different environments. And although there are positives to this digital world, it is important to educate your teenager on the negatives while also listening to their point of view. This is because their perspective is crucial in understanding and planning a solution to a more balanced tech lifestyle.

2. Open-mindedness

When you are having a conversation with your teenager about their relationship with technology, it is likely that you will come across disagreements and argue over each others’ opinions of how technology should be used. When this happens, it is important to stay open-minded about their ideas on how to balance their screen time even though it may not be your ideal way. If you stay open-minded to their perspective, you may then be able to negotiate methods together that result in successful tech balance. In addition, it is important for your teenager to know you are making an effort in understanding their point of view.

Below is an example of how a conversation might evolve:

Mom: Sophie, I have noticed you have been spending too much time on your phone lately. Can you tell me why this is?

Sophie (teenager): I just like to know what is going on in my friend’s lives and I also like to post about my life.

Mom: I understand. How do you think you can reduce your screen time?

Sophie: Sometimes I try turning off notifications when I know it is affecting my productivity in a negative way, but I am always tempted to pick it back up again.

Mom: It is good you are aware of how it is affecting your work. Can I offer some advice?

Sophie: Yes.

Mom: What if you put your phone completely out of sight to limit your impulses to grab your phone? Would that help?

Sophie: That seems like a good idea because maybe if it is out of sight, it will be out of mind as well.

In this conversation, Sophie and her mom have a productive conversation that leads to a potential solution for digital wellness. Instead of completely ignoring each others’ thoughts and ideas, they remained open-minded to each others’ perspectives and alternative solutions.

3. Attentiveness and Care

One of the most important aspects of an effective conversation is knowing