In my work with schools, I get to teach classes on Digital Citizenship. These kids are so smart and so eager to talk about their digital lives. There are some things you should know and some actions you can take right now.

Here’s what you should know about how young teens are using their time online.

  • These kids agreed with the stats on teens using their screens 6.5 hours a day. Some shrugged and said “that’s way too low–I’m at 13” and some (okay, one) said “my parents only let me have an hour.” Several were at 3-4 hours.
  • They’re eager to share what they know and to talk about the good and bad sides to the internet when they’re not feeling judged.
  • One 7th grader explained how she could have 13 hours of screen time on a school day–her friend group Facetimes at 10pm and they stay on their phones together all night, sleeping, waking up, chatting, sleeping. (My mommy heart was breaking–Imagine the sleep deprivation cycle those girls are creating.) When I asked if she was ever tired the next day, she said “always.”

Action items for parents

  1. Get all smart screens–phones, tablets, laptops–out of your teen’s bedroom. Without your guidance and supervision, teens aren’t able to set healthy limits by themselves.
  2. Set up a family charging station and require all devices to be there by 10pm.
  3. When you kids argue and say “My phone is my alarm clock! I’ll never be able to get up again”, buy them a cheap, old-fashioned alarm clock. That’s a dumb argument and you need to call their bluff.
  4. Google your teen. What comes up? (Google yourself while you’re at it!)
  5. Go to their favorite social media platform (you’re following them on social media, right?) and see what they’re posting. With every “like”, comment and share, they are creating a digital footprint that will follow them forever.
  6. Get the app Bark for your family. It will send you alerts when your child sends or receives inappropriate photos or messages. It’s a must-have for any child who texts or uses social media.

Why do digital footprints matter?

Colleges, employers, landlords, even pet adoption agencies are all using this information to make decisions about your kids. This can be a negative, if derogatory memes or hate speech is out there, or it can be a positive, if they start to intentionally post about their sports achievements, goals, volunteering, leadership positions, activism, hobbies–all the amazing things they’re doing.

Did you see this news story on Harvard in 2017? They rescinded a

You’ve got great kids, right? Why not teach them how to use technology for good?

We can help them create a digital footprint that propels them forward.

Want to learn more?

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