DEAR HARRIETTE: How do you approach teen smartphone and computer usage? I think my son’s constant use of phones and other screens -- especially at night -- is not great for his health. He is 16 years old and is constantly on some device. I know that he plays interactive video games with his friends, but I am worried about whatever else he may be doing. What are some ways I can limit his phone usage without being too harsh? -- Phone a Friend
DEAR PHONE A FRIEND: Your son is getting to the age where he will want more independence, yet as a teenager, he still needs your guidance. If you haven’t told him already, let him know that you reserve the right to see what he’s viewing and with whom he is communicating whenever you choose. You should conduct spot checks regularly so that you get a clear sense of what he is doing. He will not like this. Remind him that your job is to protect him, which is why you need to know what he’s up to. You can point out that as much as you love and trust him, you know that he has a teenage brain. That means that no matter how smart he is, sometimes he may make bad decisions. Your job, with your mature brain and parenting role, is to be a guiding support for him -- even if he doesn’t like it.
Further, you can limit screen time. You can give a screens-off time, like a bedtime, that you enforce by having your son put his cellphone in a common area to be charged. Similarly, his computer can be put in a common area and turned off for the evening. He won’t like this, but this is a sure way to limit his interactions outside of your home after hours.