Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Parent Wants To Cut Down on Teen’s Screen Time

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.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I broke up with my ex-girlfriend a few months ago because we just weren’t getting along well. I didn’t want to lead her on, so I thought we should end our relationship. I’ve heard recently that she took the breakup hard and hates me. This has not been my experience, with my few interactions with her being awkward but cordial. Do you think I can do anything to help her, or should I just wait and not talk to her until much later when it is more likely she is over me? -- Handling Heartbreak

DEAR HANDLING HEARTBREAK: You may want to request one meeting with your ex-girlfriend where you tell her that you did not mean to hurt her and that you are sorry she is suffering right now. Tell her that you hope she will be OK soon. Allow her to speak her mind. Be sure that you acknowledge her feelings as you stand your ground. If you do not want to be in a relationship with her anymore, be clear about that so that she doesn’t misread the reason for this meeting.

When it is finished, wish her well and step away. If you are ever to be friendly in the future, she will have to heal and move on with her life just as you are moving on with yours.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)