Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Connecting with Teens in a Small Screen World (Guest Post)

Connecting with Teens in a Small Screen World
By Dr. John Duffy,
Author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens

We are on vacation in Florida with another family. Three young teenagers are on board, my 13-year-old included. A number of times over the past week, I have peered over to see each of their beautiful faces lost in a 3 ½ inch screen: a Nintendo DS, iPhone, iPod Touch, or any other thing!

One might be texting friends back home, another might be selecting a new song, while yet another is playing the latest downloaded game. There they were in the car last night, screens lighting their faces. There they were on the couch, in front of the giant TV screen! Even in bed, all faces illuminated, eyes entranced.

Glowing Phonephoto © 2009 Adam Bailey | more info (via: Wylio) So how is a parent to counteract the draw of the tiny, sophisticated, intoxicating hand-held plaything?

Well, for one, recognize that if you can't beat them, join them. Whatever it is that is displayed on that tiny screen, your teen is clearly engaged in it. Sit down with her. Have a look at the contraption. Ask what it does -- teens love to be teachers. Most importantly, ask what your teen loves so much about it. This is a golden opportunity to connect, to get to know your teen better.

And you might want to write her a clever text once in a while: "How are you?" "What are you doing/listening to right now?" I worked recently with a father who took to writing his daughter an "I love you" text every day. He called me with glee the day he got one back.

You need to know that texting is the preferred mode of communication for many teens, whether we adults want that to be the case, or not.

Also, recognize your own addiction to the tiny screen. What I did not mention above is the myriad opportunity I have had to see adult faces lit up by an iPhone in the past several days. We serve as the strongest role models for our teens. Our screen time is seen as latent permission for their own.

Finally, you might want to engage your teen in a different way. For instance, my wife Julie and I designated yesterday's lunch as a "No Screen Zone." We engaged our teenagers in conversation. We talked about music, movies and politics. It was fun, and everyone was engaged and participating.

So make sure you protect some time together where all screens go dark.

The above is an excerpt from the book The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens by John Duffy. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

© 2011 John Duffy, author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens

Author Bio

Dr. John Duffy
, author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens, is a highly sought-after clinical psychologist, certified life coach, parenting expert, and proud parent. He has been working with teens, tweens, and their families for more than fifteen years. He has provided the critical intervention and support needed to help hundreds of families find their footing.

He has served as a contributing parent expert for a number of media outlets. These include AOL Health, AOL Parent Dish, Notre Dame magazine, Root & Sprout, bettyconfidential.com, makeitbetter.net, examiner.com, theteendoc.com, Chicago Parent, sheknows.com, Psych Central, Current Health TeensThe Oakland Tribune, and Working Mother Magazine. He has also served as a parenting and relationship expert on a number of radio programs, including the nationally-syndicated Mr. Dad program with best-selling author Armin Brott, and The Lite Show on WNTD in Chicago. Dr. Duffy has also contributed to a number of books, including Living Life as a Thank You (Viva Editions) by Mary Beth Sammons and Nina Lesowitz.

For more information please visit http://www.drjohnduffy.com/ and Amazon, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure:  I have not yet read this book.  The book cover image in this post contains an affiliate link:  If you click through my Amazon.com link and complete a purchase, I will receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting my blog!


  1. Another thing I have learned is that our kids can teach us how to use our own cell phone. I often ask my daughter how to retrieve voice messages. It makes her feel important...and really I do not remember from one time to the next. Interesting book opportunity I must look it up.

  2. These are good point. Parents need to be sure to stay engaged with their kids/teens--even if it means moving out of our comfort zone to keep up with them.

  3. Yes, they love to be teachers -- and I let them! (I need their help and they love that.)

    And I do text my boys.

    I love the "No Screen Zone," though. Nothing like it!


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