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Parenting Fundamentals - Part 3: Teaching About Media

Welcome to Part 3 of this 3 Part blog series that highlights what I learned about parenting in my Marriage and Family Sudies degree. I'm hoping to give you the most condensed but impactful lessons from my studies, that's what this blog series attempts to do.

A common concern that comes up when I'm helping parents in my coaching practice is teen depression and anxiety. Many of the teens I coach ask for my help in those areas too, and the first area I ask questions about are the teen's media usage, whether a cell phone, tablet, or computer.

There is a high correlation between media use and teen depression and anxiety. A study published back in 2017 from San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge acknowledges the correlation, though is cautious to prove causation (Twenge, 2017). Even so, the study raised a big red flag to parents.

Between 2010 and 2015, Twenge's findings indicated the biggest increase was among girls who were six times more likely than boys to report depressive symptoms.

Twenge says the differences in gender may have to do with how girls use of media revolves around concerns of popularity, whereas boys use of media revolves around gaming.

Maybe you're like me and feel caught off guard with how to help your teen manage media and their electronic devices. If so, I'm sharing lessons we can teach to help our teens manage the world they are navigating, so you can have meaningful discussions with your teens moving forward.

The key is to keep the dialogue with your teen a mutual discussion versus a speech or over moralizing. Problem-solve together when you see concerns and ask your teen what ideas they have to safe-guard their mental health.


Five Lessons to Teach Your Teen About Media


  1. Phones are not for dealing with feelings of stress, boredom, inadequacy or validation. In other words, we don't want to use our phones for escapism. Phones are a tool for staying in touch with important people. Anything above and beyond that is considered entertainment. Teach your teens that phones have a purpose, and the purpose is not to be constantly entertained.
  2. Take an inventory of how often you are picking up your phone to look at it when you don't need it. We want to be aware of whether we are being the boss of our phones, or if our phones are being the boss of us. If it is difficult to leave your phone on a charging station or in another room, then your phone might be bossing you around. Checking the phone needlessly becomes a subconscious habit. Teach your teens to un-tether themselves from their phone. They don't always need to have it. They can go big chunks of time without it.
  3. Face to face time is more important than screen time. Ask your teen if they find being with friends in real life less interesting and exciting than being with them on Instagram or playing video games? If so, they might be confusing artificial connection with real life connection. Teach them that face to face time is valuable to learn social cues, and to build real bonds with other humans. Screens cannot mimic real life human connection. Encourage your teens to have more face to face time with friends and make your home a gathering place for connection.
  4. Have house rules for the phone, such as phone free zones like dinner time. In other words, make it a policy to put phones away during family time. Help your teens disconnect from the pressures of school and peers in the evenings and create a family culture of undivided attention and good conversation. Help your teens know that you want their undivided attention and you value their presence. Teach them the art of conversation.
  5. Help them create more than they consume. We have a rule in our home that after the homework is done, after the instruments are practiced, and after the sports practices are done, then they can have some down time on their phones, but not before. After a long, demanding day at school, the first thing they like to do is check their phones and doom scroll social media. But teach your teens to only engage in scrolling after they've finished their important things for the day.


If I'm honest, I've had many moments I wish we could go back to the good-old-days without cell phones and social media. It's A LOT for adults to manage, let alone our teens and young adults.

In my parenting, I've found all these teachings land best if I'm setting a good example, something I haven't been perfect at. It takes a lot of trial and error, so be patient with yourself and your teen as you find the right balance.

Don't be afraid to teach and set boundaries. Your teens need them! They may complain or push back on your rules, but hold firm and make sure they learn how to protect their mental health.

Do you have media figured out in your own life? Do you feel engaged in your real life more than what you experience on social media?

If not, take heart. It's good to be honest with where you are. Many adults struggle with this.

It's never too late to turn things around! You CAN do this! Lead with your desire to enjoy your kids while they're still in your home and build real connection with them.

💛 Danielle




Twenge, Jean M., Joiner, Thomas E., Martin, Gabrielle N. (2017). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among U.S. Adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science. Volume 6, Issue 1.




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