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Ask the expert: How can I get my teenager to reduce the time he spends on a screen?

Internet addiction expert Brad Marshall outlines how to regulate teens' screen time both during lockdown and after it's all over

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'Many teenagers are able to moderate their own screen time. Some are not. This can lead to endless arguments when they tell you (with good intentions) they'll get off or limit themselves in future but can't follow through.'

'Many teenagers are able to moderate their own screen time. Some are not. This can lead to endless arguments when they tell you (with good intentions) they'll get off or limit themselves in future but can't follow through.'

PA

'Many teenagers are able to moderate their own screen time. Some are not. This can lead to endless arguments when they tell you (with good intentions) they'll get off or limit themselves in future but can't follow through.'

Q. My 14-year-old son spends way too much time on his phone or gaming, and he's been even worse during lockdown. How can I get him to reduce the time he spends on a screen, both now and after lockdown ends, without causing an argument?

A. Psychologist Brad Marshall, aka the Unplugged Psychologist, is director of the Internet Addiction Clinic in Sydney, Australia, and author of The Tech Diet for Your Child and Teen.

He says: "Many teenagers are able to moderate their own screen time. Some are not. This can lead to endless arguments when they tell you (with good intentions) they'll get off or limit themselves in future but can't follow through.

"One of the reasons is the area of the brain responsible for things like impulse control and emotional control is underdeveloped in the teenage years. With that in mind, many teens require boundaries. Will it cause arguments? Yes, sometimes. But it's necessary for us as parents to guide them.

"Now, let's address the question on every parent's mind - how do you do this during the Covid-19 lockdown? The simple answer is, it's possible but absolutely more difficult. As parents we need to rejig our own expectations about 'good parenting' during this period and throw away the idealistic image we all strive for.

"In practical terms, that means emphasising using screen time as a reward for two main areas that will get your teenager through this crisis with their mental health intact: First, maintaining a relatively normal sleep schedule. Second, encouraging some off-screen time and exercise where possible. I understand the usual football matches with mates aren't possible, but parents can get creative with exercise that's viable given the restrictions.

"I don't recommend parents getting into arguments about every tiny little thing during lockdown. Keep the bigger picture in mind. One of many strategies is to take control of the home WiFi (and mobile smartphone data) and place reasonable limits on it. Will your teenager love that? No! But it's less likely to get heated. In order to practically implement that you might need help from an IT expert, as some modems allow this easily and with others you need the skills of an expert."

The Tech Diet for Your Child and Teen by Brad Marshall is published by Harper Collins, £14.99

Belfast Telegraph