Teens, Smart Devices, and Social Media: How Parents Can Foster Healthy Interactivity in 2016

It’s a brave new world for teens – and their parents.

A hot topic of conversation this spring is the impact the Internet, smart devices, and social media has on our lives, and more specifically, on our children’s lives. If the recent CES tradeshow that exhibits the latest gadgets and advances is any indicator, consumers can expect smart homes, smart autos, and virtual reality in their daily future lives1. It’s exciting, but it also brings up some relevant questions.

Naturally, parents and teachers are concerned about how to reinforce responsible device use for our teens, but we also want to respect their growing need for privacy as they learn to navigate the choppy waters of adulthood.

Trends indicate that when our teen children reach adulthood, their relationship to technology will extend well beyond the computer or tablet. Even in the coming spring months and into 2016, we’ll see a broadening of smart, connected devices: door locks, appliances, and other household use products will form what industry insiders are calling “the device mesh.”2

Parents want connectivity for their children; they want to know where they are, and they want them to have access to the larger world of information. So how do we strike that balance? This is a new dilemma for parents.

You wouldn’t let your kid wander unsupervised in a big city– the Internet is no different.

What seems to work for many parents is to limit device time, and some parents treat it like an allowance: after chores and homework, then kids can use their smart phone or tablet. This way they are less likely to aimlessly wander the web and use the time wisely.

Another safe social realm that allows for bonding over an activity is strategy and simulation gaming. For example, City Island 3- Building Sim allows users to build their own empire, develop infrastructure, and create civilization. This genre of game has blown up with millennials, and it offers them some context for how cities and cultures come to be. This game is highly interactive, so players can talk shop and check out each other’s progress. It’s educational and gives teens a common interest to share.

As they make progress toward adulthood, teens often separate themselves from their parents, and that is the cultural expectation. However, this often means that parents are complicit with that separation and stop trying to participate in their children’s interests. Another way to mediate device use is to offer to play with them; a fantastic option in other-world strategy is EvoCreo, a Japanimation action adventure that offers over 40 hours of multi-player excitement. This game is really fanciful and fun, and presents opportunities to talk with your teen about something that engages them.

Just like with anything that brings us enjoyment, learning to balance device use with other things is a healthy life skill. For example, spring often means that sports start to pick back up in school, so make sure kids are also staying active in such outlets. Parents can actually do a lot to keep adolescents on the right path by checking in, emphasizing responsible social behavior all around, and ensuring children of all ages are using their screen time wisely.


  1. http://www.cnet.com/ces/
  2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/gartnergroup/2016/01/15/top-10-technology-trends-for-2016/#30fc0f8a5ae9
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