Please enter a valid search term.

Digital tug-of-war: One mom's guide to surviving the teen years in the tech era

Evans City, PA (March 27, 2024) - As a mom of two incredible teenagers, I find myself in a constant dance of love and war with technology. On one hand, it's a wonderful tool that keeps us connected, ensures safety, and even shares laughs. On the other, it's a battlefield of social media pressures, distractions, and the endless quest for digital approval. Navigating this landscape requires a delicate balance, a tightrope walk between staying connected and avoiding the pitfalls of addiction.

The wonders of connectivity

I adore the ease with which I can stay in touch with my kids. Apps like Life360 bring peace of mind when my kids are not home, knowing I can locate my 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter at a moment's notice. The quick texts I get from them during school hours to tell me how they did on a test or that they forgot something they needed for practice after school helps to keep us communicating. I love when my kids share funny reels and delicious recipes they have found. My husband and I have even downloaded Snapchat, which we find to be the best way to get a response from our kids most days. I am also raising two student-athletes and cannot begin to tell you how helpful technology is to keep their sport’s schedules straight and to check on their grades – DAILY!  These have become our little rituals, keeping our family bond strong in our fast-paced lives.

The double-edged sword of social media

Yet, there's a shadow that looms with the light of technology. Social media, for all its perks, can be a harsh landscape for teenagers. It often paints a picture of a world where everyone else seems perfect, distorting the reality that life is beautifully imperfect. I've seen the toll it can take—the way it skews self-perception, the mean streak of online bullying, the feeling of being left out and the vortex of endless scrolling that seems to swallow time itself. As with most things, the negative can often outweigh the positive. Here are some ways my husband (Mark) and I have found to keep our kids, (Tyson and Addison), balanced in a technology heavy world.

Striking the balance

Navigating this digital landscape with my teenagers has been a journey of negotiation, understanding, and, most importantly, balance.

Open communication: We've fostered an environment where open communication about online experiences is encouraged. Discussions about the impact of social media, the difference between online personas and real life, and the importance of digital privacy are common at our dinner table, when we have the time to sit together.

Setting boundaries: Together, we've established boundaries for healthy technology use. Screen-free zones, like when they are riding in the car with me, helps us to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with each other. Monitoring apps usage, not as a means of control but for safety, is a practice we've all come to respect. When the kids were younger, we used an app called Bark that was worth every single penny. Although now they are older, we still put restrictions on their iPhone and set down times.  Did you know you can print reports from Snapchat to see what they are doing?

Leading by example: I'm mindful of the example I set with my own technology use. Demonstrating a balance between screen time and real-world activities is crucial. It's about showing, not just telling, that life beyond the screen is vibrant and fulfilling.

Encouraging alternatives: Promoting activities that don't involve technology is another strategy we've embraced. For us its family game nights, helping the kids practice their sports or just enjoying some time outside. They remind us that joy doesn't require a Wi-Fi connection.

Embracing imperfection

The journey to balance technology in our lives is ongoing and far from perfect. There are days when the digital world seems to win. The goal? To raise individuals who are not only tech-savvy but also kind, empathetic, and capable of forging meaningful connections—both online and off.

To fellow parents on this journey: Let's share, support, and learn from each other. After all, it takes a village—online and offline.

About the author: Ashley Pino is a Senior Marketing Specialist for Connected Nation. Ashley is responsible for communications and marketing functions that broadly publicize Connected Nation (CN)’s mission, educate stakeholders on Digital Divide issues, and lead to new programs and projects that expand CN’s social impact.

This years other Women's History Month blogs: