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Media & Technology Use

Setting limits is a major part of parenting in the teen years. Limits should continue to be set for media and technology use. It's a good idea to think about how you will set limits, monitor usage and what will count towards total time. If your child is doing research for school and needs to use the Internet or computer, you will have to decide if this time will count towards their total amount for the day.

Television

It is important to set time limits on technology use; most experts recommend no more than one to two hours per day. Children who watch television more than the recommended amount are more likely to have a higher percentage of body fat than children who watch less.

It is also very important to keep an eye on the programs and movies your teen is watching. If she is watching a new show, it's a good idea to sit down with her so you know what she is watching. If you are concerned about the characters or content of the show, talk to her about your concerns. Ask her what she thinks of the characters and topics. Teens should be allowed to set their own television or movie schedule within the time limits or rules you have set. Make sure you continue to speak to your child about what he is watching and praise him for making good choices.

Many teens watch nightly dramas, movies or music videos that have adult themes, including violence and sex. The messages in these shows often conflict with values parents might try to teach their teenagers about healthy people and respectful relationships. The media helps shape our ideas of what is desirable, attractive and right in women, men and relationships. It is important to talk to your teen about body shapes and sizes. Make sure you tell your teen that movie stars ? both male and female ? have a great deal of assistance achieving a certain appearance: trainers, chefs, plastic surgeons, dentists, make-up artists, air brushing, special lighting, wardrobe consultants and so on. And talk to your teen about how many programs do not portray life realistically: for example, the media often portrays casual sex with multiple partners, but these characters rarely deal with the consequences of sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancies.

Violence is also commonly found in the media, and it is sometimes glorified and extreme. If your teen is watching a lot of violent images, you can speak to her about her choices and ask her why she is interested in this type of programming. Remind her that many of these programs are not portraying life and death realistically, nor are they trying to.

Cell Phones

Whether your teen has a cell phone or not is up to you. While cell phones can be convenient to reach your teen, there are some things you should consider before giving your teen a cell phone. It's a good idea to ask your child why she wants to have a cell phone. Stress the practical reasons – to ease communication between you and your teen – rather than the coolness of having a phone.

Part of the reason she may want a cell phone is to fit in or feel good about herself. This is a great opportunity to speak to your child about his self-confidence. It is important to tell your child that he is cool because he is kind, funny, hard-working, a great sibling, and a great friend, not because he has the latest phone or mp3 player.

You may also wish to consider the many different types of phones and plans available and decide what you are willing to spend and how much your teen will have to spend. You and your teen will have to decide which plan is best for her needs, keeping in mind both the cost of the plan and the added charges if your teen goes over her plan's limits.

You may also want to set limits on how and when your teen is allowed to use his phone. Will he be allowed to answer his phone or send text messages during dinner? Make sure your child knows the rules and the consequences she'll have to face if she breaks them. It is a good idea to relate the consequence to the phone, maybe reduced hours for talking or by removing her phone completely for a day.

You may also want to discuss evening use of cell phones with your teen. Recent studies have shown that teens often spend time texting until very late ? some even wake their friends at night with text messages. You could set limits on your teen's phone use during the night so he can get a full night's rest. Perhaps have your teen leave her cell phone in her bag in the hall closet overnight, or have his docking station in the kitchen, away from his bedroom.

If your teen's text messages include "sexting" or messages about sex, remember that teens have always talked about sex – phone sex, writing notes – but the ways they talk about it has changed with the advent of text messaging. Because of the new technology, parents should speak to their teen about healthy sexuality and respectful relationships. Some teens may feel more comfortable talking about sex by texting and this is an okay, safe way to talk about sex with a partner or friend. Sometimes, however, because teens feel more comfortable texting, they might text a message about having sex or performing a sexual act that they really don't want to do. This can put your teen in a very difficult situation.

Talk to your teen about what he might text. Remind him that he might feel brave texting something that he is not comfortable saying to someone. Remind her that she can always change her mind and should not feel pressured to do something because she sent a text message about it.

It's also important to talk to your child about technology and keeping herself safe. If she sends a text message, picture, or video to anyone – even a friend – she loses control of that message and it can show up anywhere. Sometimes people make poor choices and we may think our best friend would never forward a nasty message to another person, but we cannot control someone else's behaviour. Make sure you talk with your teen about the possible consequences of sending questionable text messages, including how:

  1. You lose control of the content after the message is sent.
  2. Your message can be taken out of context and used to hurt you or someone else.
  3. Your pictures can be sold or traded and placed online for pornographic purposes.
  4. You can get into trouble for harassment or bullying in school or the workplace.
  5. Potential employers often look at websites such as Facebook and Twitter before deciding whether or not to hire someone.

Your teen needs to know that text messages can be saved and passed around easily. Text messages should always be considered as public and permanent.

Music

Music is a big part of many teenagers' lives and with mp3 players, teens can listen to music frequently. It is a good idea to listen to your teen's music and ask her why she likes a certain artist or song. Don't be afraid to talk to your teen about the words or messages in the music she likes.

As with television, there are many adult themes in music: sex, body image, money, violence and more. Because of these themes, it is really important to talk to your teen about the messages found in the music he listens to. As a parent, you may make decisions regarding the music your child listens to, but this can be difficult to monitor and enforce. Nevertheless, you can still set rules and limits on the types of music or artists your teen is allowed to listen to.

Have a conversation about your teen's choices and whether the songs are appropriate for all of your family to hear. If there are artists you don't want your other children to listen to, reserve this type of music for your teen's room or ask that your teen use headphones. It is harder to monitor what your teen is listening to than what your nine year old is listening to, but always praise your teen for making good choices.

Computer & Internet Use

Setting limits on Internet use ? surfing and visiting appropriate websites ? is very important. Ensure your teen is aware of the potential harms online: adult content, predators, scam artists, and cyber bullying. Also make sure your teen knows how important it is to not share any confidential or private information with anyone. For more information on protecting your privacy online, follow this link.

You can also set parental controls on website access and Internet use. This may be a good option if your teen has unsupervised Internet access. Realistically, we cannot keep an eye on our teens every moment, so protect your teen by educating her about online safety.

Your teen may have a Facebook account, a Twitter page, instant messenger and other ways of communicating through the Internet with friends and peers. While it may seem strange to you, it is normal for teens to want to communicate and stay in touch with friends and events.

Many of the same issues with texting are just as important with all forms of communication on the Internet. It is a good idea to talk to your teen about protecting his privacy by never revealing information such as who he is, where he lives or where he goes to school or work. It's also important not to reveal other personal identification such as a Social Insurance Number or bank information to anyone online.

Your teen should know that it is never okay to go by himself to meet someone he has talked to online. Online, a person can pretend to be someone else – a teen, an acquaintance – in order to meet young people. Try to know who your teen is talking to while he is online.

When your teen updates her online profile picture, she is likely going to want to look attractive in her photo. This is okay and normal to want to look one's best. But your teen can look attractive while still looking appropriate for her age. Make sure you speak to your teen about sexuality, appropriate dress and how others may view her picture. She may not understand that anyone can see her picture and that people often make inaccurate snap-judgments based on first impressions.

Some parents set a rule that they must have access to their teen's profile online. Only you can decide if you want to have access to your teen's profile. Whatever you chose, it is a good idea to keep updated on the newest ways your teen may communicate with others online. The best way to do this is to talk to your teen and her friends.

Video Games

Even though a video game is rated "Teen," you may still want to know what your teen is playing. Many video games that are approved for teens include violence, suggestive content and have adult themes. While you may feel a game is fine for your 18 year old, you may not feel that it's okay for your 13 year old. You may also want to monitor and set limits regarding time spent playing video games per day.

Keep the lines of communication open and discuss the games with your son or daughter. Ask him or her about the game ? why she likes it? Do his friends play this game? Tell him what you think about the game without harping. If there are things you don't like about the game, discuss it with him. It's also a good idea to play with her ? you'll challenge yourself and have a good time together.

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