5 House Rules for Media and Teens

My previous blog post, “Sobering Statistics for Media and Teens” lists research regarding the effects TV, computers and video games has on teens. The following 5 Practical House Rules are suggestions to help you navigate how to help your adolescents manage media in your home. night-television-tv-theme-machinesNo one can tell you what is “right” for you and your household. The following are 5 things we found useful in our home while having 4 teens. We used these House Rules to create some sanity around media in our home. You might find one or two helpful, as well.

1. Choose shows the family can watch together.

We have always enjoyed watching “our shows” with our teens during the week. We use the opportunity to discuss how the characters are behaving or interacting. We also laugh a lot at ridiculous plot lines and dialogue.

2. Have a “Work first - Then television or computer games” policy.

This policy is tough sometimes for everyone in the family. We all deserve to take a break, don’t we? Having this “House Rule” helps with making certain chores and homework are done. A “Work First, Then Play” house rule will help your teen to develop a good work ethic down the road.

teens and media3.  Monitor any electronics in your home.

I know this is controversial to some parents due to personal beliefs about privacy. And I absolutely respect this opinion. However, I also know teenagers can get in over their heads quickly.We talked with our teens about this dynamic and still treated them with respect and politeness. We always had the House Rule of “when we ask, you turn it over.” Our teens knew we would periodically spot check their phones and computers. When we said, “Could I see your phone or computer, please?” our teens knew they had a choice to turn over the media in that moment or we would restrict the computer or phone for 3 days. Honestly, I hated doing this. I like trusting my teens and I find spot checking to be tedious. After counseling teens for over 20 years, I also believe spot checking is less tedious than finding out they have an addiction or are into something that will cost a LOT of therapy for them to overcome.

4.  Have a “Code Word”parachute-skydiving-parachuting-jumping-38447

I know. I sound like a nut ball parent, don’t I? Truth be known, we’ve had a “Code Word” for our children and our teens forever. The “Code Word” is what our teens can say to us over the phone to let us know they are in trouble of some sort. The person who may hear them at their end will not know they just issued an alarm to us. [Tweet "When our teens use the “Code Word," we come in like the S.W.A.T. team."] We extradite them from the situation. No questions asked. Two of our children have used our “Code Word.” And all four times were due to parents not supervising the computer use of their teens. Our children and teens did not want to be exposed to pornography. On the occasions we received the “Code Word,” we extracted our teens as quickly as possible. All of these situations took place in wonderful homes where the parents told us the computers would be monitored and pornography was not an issue in the home. Yes. We asked questions regarding guns, computers, and adult supervision prior to letting our teens hang out at people’s homes.

5. Have “PG-14 Hours” For Older Teens

We had just one television in our home until our oldest son graduated from high school. When we had three adolescents  in our home and one 9-year old, we had to make PG-14 hours for TV watching. The 9 year old could not watch what the older teens were interested in. It just worked to set PG-14 Hours for the shows our older teens could watch. Plus! We could join our older teens in watching programs we were interested in. Yeah!

Tightrope of Teen Therapy

image001The reason my curriculum is called “The Tightrope of Teen Therapy” might be obvious to you parents. Parenting adolescents and giving therapy to teens is a constant tightrope these days. Developing a relationship of trust and “you can tell me anything” is a fantastic goal. The reality is the adolescent brain is not fully developed until a teen is 23 to 25 years old. (Feel free to look back at my previous blogs to review the teenage brain.) Until the brain is fully developed, we parents are the “guard rails” for our teens. Adolescents are growing in the ability to think, “If I do this, then this might happen.” They can quickly get over their heads with media and life. We want them to “drive” their own lives and one day soar from our nests. I suggest we load the dice in their favor by monitoring their media exposure in a way that works for your family and teaches your teens. What do you think? How do you monitor the media in your family? Share some of your ideas below. And - If you found these House Rules to be helpful, be sure to hit "Share!"

Kate Pieper LMFTThe above isn’t professional counseling. It is good, sound information from a mom who is also a marriage family therapist. If you would like to get in touch with me, don’t hesitate to contact me at kate@katepieperlmft or by calling 530-268-3558. Parenting teens is tough these days. I might be able to help.