Handling Screen Time for Teens, Interview with Dr Melanie Wilson

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Handling Screen Time for Teens, Interview with Dr Melanie Wilson.

Teens and Screen Time, Interview with Dr Melanie Wilson

Handling Screen Time for Teens, Interview with Dr Melanie Wilson

We are back with our dear friend and podcasting colleague, Melanie Wilson of Homeschool Sanity podcast. Melanie is a voice of wisdom and encouragement for the homeschool community for many years.

Melanie is a PhD psychologist who has homeschooled her six kids for over twenty years. Four of them have graduated from homeschool high school and gone on to college. Two are still homeschooling their high school years.

Along the way, Melanie became an expert at organizing (check out her interview with HSHSP about getting organized). She shares her organizational skills and tools with her Organized Homeschool Life Planner,Year of Living Productively, online classes for moms and podcast episodes. She often leads an organizational challenge on her podcast.

To top it all off, Melanie has designed an absolutely delightful grammar curriculum (can you imagine using the word “delightful” about grammar?). Her Grammar Galaxy curriculum teaches grammar skills for elementary and middle schoolers in narrative adventure format!

Today, Melanie is sharing with us about screen time for teens

Besides having teens of her own, Melanie has found that moms have been asking her how to handle screen time for their teens. Therefore, she has been working on getting some thoughts together as helpful guidelines for moms.

When Melanie was a young mom, she (like Vicki and many of us) was determined to protect her kids from every negative influence in the whole world. That way their lives would be safe and anxiety free. (Melanie and Vicki had some hearty laughs over those memories.)

In the early days of parenting, she did not allow her kids to have screen time. However, she and her husband caved to the pressure to allow their children to play video games. She found that there were positives and stressors about this first venture into screens.

Melanie noticed that technology is always changing and thus, there were always new things for her kids to want or need. She was constantly needing to weigh the costs and benefits of various screen times for her kids.

Here are some things about handling screen time that Melanie has learned:

When you have six teens, you have lots of opportunities to find out what works!

Enforcing a lot of rules about technology is energy draining.

Melanie has always said, “Relationship before rules.” Thus, too many rules can interfere with good relationships.

Try not to work harder than your teens to manage their time.

In other words, teach teens good time management skills. This does not mean we are totally hands off when monitoring time and screens. However, a teen who has shown some maturity can monitor their screen and time usage well.

  • The closer teens come to graduating from high school, the more you need to transfer the management of their time and habits to them.
  • This way they can learn by doing, and be better prepared for adulting.

The closer teens come to graduating from high school, the more you need to transfer the management of their time and habits to them.- Melanie Wilson

Let go of the idea that you can protect your teens from every evil influence.

  • In the complexities of the digital world, complete protection of your teens is not possible.
    • Instead, turn to God and trust Him with their safety.
    • Then discuss with your teens that it is their own responsibility to keep themselves safe. Also, discuss internet safety skills and safety skills, in general.
  • One of Melanie’s sons told her that the likelihood of your teens at some point accidentally seeing some pornography on their screens is one-hundred percent. It just happens.
    • You want your kids to be able to talk to you about it when it happens.
    • Therefore, you cannot protect them one-hundred percent, so you must educate them instead.

Melanie spoke about sexuality with each of her children when they were ready.

  • She told them that sex is a beautiful thing when it is within the context of marriage and is private.
  • Making sex public destroys its beauty. She explains that there are some people who want to take sex out of the context of marriage and privacy and make it public.
  • She explains to her kids that when they run into those images during screen time, the do not keep looking at those images.

She also explains to her kids that these pornographic images are as addictive as drugs.

Pornography addicts have more trouble with sexual relationships with their real-life marriage partner.

  • For that reason, Melanie coaches her teens to discontinue looking at any pornographic images when they inadvertently run across them.

Handling screen time for teens and the evil in this world

Melanie also has real discussions with her teens about the evil in this world. She explains that most people do not want to lure them away from safety and abduct them. However, there a few very dangerous people who spend time on line with the purpose of luring young people away from home for evil purposes.

While we homeschoolers have mostly had safe and secure lives, the downside can be a naivety about the fact that there are evildoers in the world. Therefore, our teens need to know that they should not give personal information to people they meet online- gender, age, location, etc. Melanie does have rules about giving personal information to anyone in the digital sphere. However, she knows the most important thing is not the rule but her teens’ buy-in.

Handling screen time for teens and health

Melanie has discussions with her teens about the simple addictiveness of being on screens. (Even we parents have to watch out about how addictive screens are to us.) They need to know that the media and games to which they are exposed is designed to keep them on their screens.

  • In other words, the game designers and media producers take advantage of their understanding our human psychology to keep people gaming or watching. Therefore, feeling stuck on their screens does not show bad character on your teens’ part. Teens need to know that- that this is just a modern-day challenge for all Americans.

Also important to their health is screen time at night time. Teens sometimes need to be reminded of the importance of sleep for health and learning. Help them with their time management and goal setting. (Their health curriculum will address this also.)

Remember to keep discussions relational and non-judgmental!

Check out Melanie’s blogpost about teens and screen time for discussion and resources.

Another good resource is Leah Nieman. Check out these Homeschool Highschool Podcast interviews with Leah about technology, apps and digital audits. Not only that but check out the Homeschooling with Technology podcast with our friend, Meryl van der Merwe, for a gazillion technology ideas.

Join Vicki and Melanie for a helpful discussion on handling teens and screen time.

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