Monday 4 December 2017

12 Ways to get your Teen off their Tech this Christmas Break

Teen with Mobile Image courtesy of Shutterstock

In 2017 I think most parents of teenagers are suffering from the same thing. Deaf ears. My son doesn't hear a word I say when he has his headphones on and is in the virtual world of game play with his mates online. Manage to get him offline and he'll wander downstairs grunt a hello and grab his phone from his pocket and be at it again. Sound familiar? Yes, I thought so but fear not as I have some great ideas for you to help get your teen off their devices for at least part of the Christmas holiday.

I wouldn't recommend a full tech-free fortnight though as I think we need to be realistic as parents and nowadays our teens very much live in the digital world. Some online time is fine, that's how many of them stay connected to their friends when there isn't any school but we know that a full-day online is too much and they will just end up withdrawing even more than usual. A good balance is what we're after.

You might find it a little hard to implement changes if you've never restricted your teens tech access before but perseverance and open conversations go a very long way. Make sure you share your concerns about excess screen time with your child so they know why you are doing this and be willing to limit your own time online too, so you are setting a good example.

Try to give your teen the choice of what tasks they want to do instead of dictating to them as they will buy in to it more if they feel they have choices. I always find that once my son gets in to other tasks and puts his tech down he actually ends up enjoying them and starts self-regulating himself on his tech anyway.

1. Get them to bake or cook dinner
If this is new for your son or daughter you'll need to work alongside them at first but they'll soon develop a good repertoire of recipes and my 14 year old cooks the family meal at least once a week now and we often enjoy brownies or banana cake when I tell him he has to find something else to do for a few hours.

2.  Go into the woods with their mates and have an adventure
I know many teens think they are too old but they're not. Get a few friends together and go ad build a den, do some tracking, search for a geocache, whittle some wood or play something like capture the flag.

3.  Take a bike ride
Or any other physical kind of activity that they enjoy. Scooting, skating or skateboarding are all fun too and if you have a local green space with skate park or maybe a flat promenade near the beach then this is perfect. Or what about a long bike ride with you or their Dad, fresh air and fitness all rolled in to one.

4.  Get them to play with their younger siblings
This definitely isn't my sons preferred pastime but sometimes I make him have a game with his sisters. Something like Monopoly, Uno or Codenames and they always end up having fun together. It makes a real difference to their relationship and how much they annoy each other when they have to push through the annoyance barrier and spend some quality time together.

5.  Do some craft or colouring
Both boys and girls alike can find crafts and artist pursuits that they enjoy. You just have to try a few different things. My son quite likes adult colouring, decopatch and making mosaics.

6.  Offer their time and talents to a charity
Obviously older teens can get themselves a part-time job and be useful but for the younger ones it isn't easy to find one. So why not get them to talk to a local charity and see if they can help (or you can investigate on their behalf if they are a little shy). My son has volunteered for the food bank in the warehouse and also packing food up for clients, as well as car park marshaling at races and local events and working the tech at church.

7.  Book them a playdate
OK, that's a bad choice of name but you know what I mean. Speak to their mates parents and arrange for them to meet up for the cinema, laser quest, crazy golf, swimming, bowling, a game of football - anything that gets them outside!

8. Take them for a coffee
My son loves it when my husband or I take him out for one on one time. With me it is normally for a coffee and my husband might take him for a meal or the cinema together. If money is tight hen just something like a walk and a good chat can be fun too. The more time you invest in your child an spend with them the more likely they are to keep talking to you and to come to you when they need you.

9.  Make them feel useful
of course most teens will groan if you ask them to clean their bedroom or the kitchen but everyone likes to feel useful. So find something that helps you but will also be enjoyable or will challenge your teen. Recently my son has edited some videos for me and done a complete health check and clear down of my PC. Now these are tech related tasks of course but I didn't mind him doing them as they were not tasks of his choosing and he wasn't mindlessly playing a game. he also does tasks like washing the car or some gardening.

10. Take the dog for a walk
If your family has a dog then perfect, make it your teens job to walk it each day of the holiday but if not then why not bless an elderly neighbour and get them to walk their dog. Or even help them in other ways - taking the rubbish out, sweeping the leaves etc.

11. Have purposeful family time
It can be a movie night all together, a family walk round the lake, a photo competition like we did recently or anything else you fancy that gets you ll enjoying time together

12.  Get them to visit a relative
Maybe there is someone in your family who gets lonely or needs a hand? It should never be underestimated how much your teen (and us) can learn from an older person. Playing cards, having a chat, doing a bit of shopping together, all these little things might mean the world to their grandparent.

Of course you can always resort to the old fall-safe that many parents use - you can't go on your tech until you have - tided your room, practised your music, done some maths, read a couple of chapters of a book and any other rule they want to set. I tend to avoid this as it doesn't suit my son, he likes a bit more freedom, to play a bit, come off his tech and maybe play a bit more again later in the day.

All the best, Mich x

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