You don’t have to be a social psychologist to notice that daily life has been altered pretty drastically for people of all ages bringing many of us even closer with our devices. But for tech-obsessed teenagers, whose non-tech activities — school days, sports, and social outings — have been largely taken away, the result has been even more screen time. (That’s on top of the seven hours a day teens tend to spend on screens, to begin with).
“This pandemic has definitely challenged normal adolescent development, which is centered on having experiences that develop your identity separate from your family’s and adolescent peer socialization,” says Hina J. Talib, M.D., program director of the post-doctoral fellowship in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.
And while today’s tech (think: Zoom, TikTok, Instagram, online classes) does provide social connection, if you’re the parent of a teenager, it’s only natural to worry about all of the extra time they’re spending on technology.
It’s crucial that tech doesn’t interfere with basic self-care (eating healthy, sleeping, and physical activity). But there are some positives to teen technology use right now. Here, experts outline why more time on iPads, iPhones, and laptops isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Tech Can Encourage Teen Autonomy
There’s always the risk that tech use becomes a way for teens to disengage from the present and regulate their emotions through distraction, explains Nicole Issa, Psy.D., founder and licensed psychologist at The Center for Dynamic and Behavioral Therapy. But ultimately, one of the critical developmental milestones during the teenage years is developing autonomy, she says.
“One way in which this is accomplished is through leaving the home, being at school to interact with peers and other adults, and structuring one’s time for responsibilities,” she explains. “With virtual learning and sheltering in place, we need to find other ways to allow teens to develop a sense of autonomy and feel that they are ‘on their own’ and have an escape from being housebound and with parents at all times.”
Phone use could provide some semblance of normalcy and an “escape” that can help teens decompress, she says. One thing to keep in mind: It’s better to be actively engaged in social media and tech than simply scrolling through a feed, says Dr. Talib. So encourage your teen to converse with peers or connect with educational online resources.
But don’t freak if there’s a bit more scrolling than usual. “We’re in crisis mode,” says Dr. Talib. “We shouldn’t expect perfection in ourselves or our teens.”
Yes, Blue Light Exposure Can Impact Sleep
“Regular sleep is hugely important for the regulation of mood so if the use of electronic devices are getting in the way of that, it will be important to problem-solve with your teen,” says Issa.
You’ve likely heard that our devices emit bright blue light that can impact the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, ultimately making it even harder to fall asleep (read: teens wind up staying up even later than their usual bedtime, which already tends to be late). In fact, blue light may also disrupt natural circadian rhythms (our internal clock that responds to light and dark — a way our body helps us discern between day and night for wake and sleep patterns) and make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Certain Nutrients Could Help Eyes Filter Blue Light*
Plant pigments called carotenoids, specifically two called lutein and zeaxanthin (found in foods like carrots, kale, broccoli and spinach) are stored in your eyes and can work as a filter against blue light exposure.
An ingredient called Lutemax2020 — found in vitamins like Alive!® Teen Multivitamins — actually combines both lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that promote eye health (on top of tons of other important vitamins and minerals).* This combination of plant carotenoids has even been shown to increase macular pigment levels that can help eyes filter certain kinds of light, including blue light.* While it’s not a guarantee for better sleep, it is one added tool in your box to help support eye health in your teen.*
The Digital World Can Help Teens Connect (And Help Us Connect)
Usually, a major concern for parents is when teens are replacing “regular” human connection with virtual connections, but currently, technology is regular human connection, says Issa.
To this extent, social media, apps or digital means of connection are a silver lining of sorts when it comes to the pandemic, says Dr. Talib. “Even though we’re physically apart, we’re still socially connected and we can creatively use some of those tools available to us to connect.”
Even more? Teens tend to be leaders in teaching us about tech. Ask your teen for help with that Zoom conference call or have them teach you how to use IG Live. It’s a nice way to help them shine and feel like a part of the problem-solving, Dr. Talib says.
Better yet: While TikTok might seem like a silly quarantine craze, Dr. Talib says fun apps like this (especially when they encourage movement, as TikTok does with its dance challenges) can be wonderful ways to connect different generations and encourage family time.
*This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
This article was created by SheKnows for Alive! Teen Multivitamin.