Tips for Mindful Technology Use:
1) No screens (phones, tablets, laptops, TV, etc.) in your teen’s bedroom. When your teen goes to bed, all devices should be elsewhere. The mere presence of a phone nearby will increase a stress hormone, cortisol. Teens often check their phones to reduce cortisol levels and this process can become repetitive and compulsive.
2) Do not allow your teen to use their smartphone as an alarm clock. Your teen does not need $1000 alarm clock. They still make $10 alarm clocks!
3) Have your teen turn off as many notifications as possible. Notifications elevate the urge to use the phone by activating what is referred to as “anticipatory dopamine” in the reward pathways of the brain.
4) Be sure that your teen does not have access to screen time 60 minutes before it is time to go to sleep. Viewing screens changes circadian rhythms and sleep patterns and increases risk for inadequate sleep. There is some evidence that the blue screen light also changes arousal and other brain functions.
5) Consider installing software in order to monitor how much screen or smart phone time your teen consumes. This takes you out of the equation of monitoring and your teen will learn to budget how much time they have - which helps them develop more mindful use of technology. Software also decreases the potential for arguments and conflicts between you and your teen.
6) Remember, the Internet is the world's largest slot machine and the smart phone is the world's smallest slot machine. The Internet operates on a variable ratio reinforcement schedule and produces intermittent and unpredictable “hits” and “rewards” in the form of desired information, messages, or other desirable content. When you are on the Internet you never know what you are going to get, when you are going to get it, and how good it is going to be - and this is how a slot machine works and how intermittent and anticipated rewards produce elevations and in feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. The intermittent reinforcement from our Internet-based technologies are potentially habit-forming and addictive.
7) Create a “real-time 100” list of activities that you and your teen can do that do not involve a screen. This can be a creative and fun task and reignite lost pleasures from off-line living.
8) Your teen needs to learn to tolerate boredom. Boredom is the gateway to creativity and social/interpersonal motivation. If your teen is always seeking instant distraction they will never develop other internal, self soothing skills, and the desire to extend their life beyond screens.
9) Never have the phone out during meals, whether at home or in a restaurant. The idea here is to create healthy boundaries around technology use. A smartphone is not an eating utensil!
10) Remember there is no such thing as multitasking! Your teen will tell you that multitasking is a skill that all teens’ possess. The reality is we all have to attend to one stream of information at a time and the more inputs we are monitoring the longer it takes to accomplish the task at hand.
11) The best way to help your teen achieve mindful and sustainable technology use is to model the same behavior yourself. Your teen is watching you and how you manage your tech use and they will be far more likely to adopt healthy technology use if they see you are doing the same.