Katherine Crouse, LMFT
by Katherine Crouse, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
I have been a counselor since 2004, when I worked in a local high school. I opened my private practice in 2011, and over the years, I’ve watched adolescent anxiety and depression deepen in magnitude across the board.
There are two issues that I see causing a great deal of conflict within families, pertaining to children and teenagers. These issues significantly affect a child or teenager’s mental health.
THE FIRST is the decision to give a kid a smart phone. Parents should be aware:
Their phone becomes their identity.
When you hand a child a phone, you are handing them the whole world. You are inviting the entire nation and more into your child’s world.
Children and teens will start to connect with an online world more than the real world around them.
Parent’s now have major competition.
Teens have become unable to handle solitude. This is extremely dangerous.
SECONDLY, if someone were to ask me what are the top three challenges that teenagers face, I would say…
Social media has a tremendous impact on teenagers. You might be surprised to learn that in my practice, a treatment plan for a teenager without any social media tends to be around 6 weeks, whereas a teen with social media accounts may need a treatment plan closer to a year. AN ENTIRE YEAR.
Today, when new teenage clients come to me, I start off with the following checklists to get a picture of what their digital lives are like, and what boundaries look like in their home. These questions are what I use to gauge where a child and family are at with technology and what kind of contributing factors are present.
CHECKLIST FOR PARENTS
Things to consider regarding your child.
How much screen time does your child get?
Are they allowed to have their phones in their room?
And if so, are they allowed to have their phone through the night?
Are they allowed to have their phone with them at all times?
Is there a central location in your home where technology is allowed?
What internet safety technology do you use?
If your child has social media do you have all the passwords?
Do you read and how often do you read your child’s text messages/social media accounts?
When screen time (or their phone) is taken away, how does your child respond?
Do you have clear expectations/boundaries lined out for your children with screen time?
What differences did you notice with your child after they were given a phone/social media account? Good and bad?
When your child goes to other homes do you know what kind of internet access is allowed there?
CHECKLIST FOR MINORS
How would your child answer these questions?
How much screen time are you allowed?
What rules do you have concerning screen time?
What are your favorite social media sites?
Are you more comfortable talking to people in person or on your phone?
Have you ever sent nude photos of yourself or been asked to send one?
Has a nude photo ever been sent to you?
Do you feel like connecting with peers via screen time is genuine connection?
From your actions on social media, how would people describe you? Example: What sites you visit, pictures you post, ect.
Have you ever been bullied via social media?
What would be your biggest fear if your phone was taken away?
Don’t Give Up!
Adolescence can be difficult to navigate and you’re not alone. With support and education your feelings of confustion will turn into confidence and put you as a parent back in the driver seat.