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When Electronics Interfere with Your Teen's Success

"My 13-year-old son's grades used to be great, but they are dropping because he plays computer games nonstop. I am trying to teach him time management, but my speeches are falling on deaf ears."

Sound familiar? If you're the parent of a teen — especially a teenage boy — you've likely expressed a similar concern at some point. Electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, can be found in the hands of most children over the age of 12, and these devices connect to an infinite number of games, videos and other internet-based distractions. It's difficult to get your teen to do his/her homework and household chores when they're competing with an ever-expanding universe of compelling — and largely free — entertainment.

Communicate Rules and Expectations

While living under your roof, your teen must abide by your rules. But for him/her to follow those rules, the rules must first be established. Choose a time when tempers aren't flaring to have a family meeting, and explain the rules and the consequences for breaking them. For example:

  • No games, social media or video-watching until all homework is completed and chores are done.
  • Electronic devices can and will be taken away if grades aren't maintained.
  • Electronic devices can and will be taken away for other reasons, such as not completing chores, disrespecting parents, fighting with siblings, etc.

The bottom line is you pay the bills and provide food and shelter, so you have the right to control access to all electronic devices your teen uses.

Observation Is Key

Just as you have the right as a parent to enter your child's bedroom and have a look around, you have the right to see what apps he/she is using on a smartphone or tablet. There can be no secrecy here. You must familiarize yourself with the apps teens use to communicate because some can be used to promote bullying and stalking. Apps to watch out for include the following:

  • Gaggle: Gaggle is an anonymous local bulletin board used to post messages to the people around you. Because it is anonymous, it fosters a community without accountability, which can lead to sexual or hateful content and extreme language.
  • Blendr: This is a flirting app used to meet new people through GPS location services. There are no authentication requirements, so sexual predators can contact minors and minors can meet up with adults.
  • Omegle: This app is primarily used for video chatting. Chat participants are only identified as "You" and "Stranger." Sexual predators use this app to find kids to collect personal information from in order to track them down more easily in person.
  • Down: This app, which used to be called Bang With Friends, is connected to Facebook. Users can categorize their Facebook friends in one of two ways: They can indicate if a friend is someone they'd like to hang out with or someone they are "down" to hook-up with.

New social apps show up all the time, so be sure to keep up on which ones are safe and which ones can be dangerous. Basically, success in this area comes down to two fundamental parenting skills: communication and observation. As long as you stay engaged with your child, you stand a much better ​chance that he/she will be successful and not succumb to the dangers of electronic distraction.​