Technology is ever-evolving and such a ubiquitous part of our lives. Our families often ask us: how can we best support our teenagers in this digital age? To discover some potential solutions, I recently read a book called “Technology’s Child” that offered some great insights. Let’s dive in and explore some of my takeaways from this book.
Understanding the “Why” is Key
Each teen uses technology differently and the resulting impact is dependent on their usage. It is important to step back and ask why a neurodivergent teen is so engrossed in technology. Is it about connecting with friends? Does it help them cope with life’s challenges? Are they trying to fit in with their peers? Knowing the reasons behind their tech use can foster numerous opportunities for conversation. It’s all about addressing the root causes rather than labeling their behavior as problematic.
Bringing Their Online and Offline Worlds Together
Many neurodivergent teenagers find community in online spaces. Platforms like fan fiction communities offer them a chance to express themselves and explore their identities freely. However, a common challenge occurs when these online communities don’t blend with their “real life.” Encouraging neurodivergent teens to bridge the gap between these two worlds can significantly benefit their mental health and self-identity. For example, a teen who enjoys Dungeons and Dragons may enjoy finding a D&D group to join through school or otherwise in the community.
Empowering Autonomy and Self-Direction
Empowering teens with a sense of autonomy and self-direction in their technology use is crucial. While technology companies often design platforms to keep users engaged for longer periods, we can help our teens become aware of these design tactics. Engaging them in open conversations about algorithms, platform design, and its impact on their usage can foster a sense of control. This awareness enables them to make more informed choices about when to start or stop using a particular platform
How Caregivers Can Support
Navigating the complexities of technology use is a challenge for both teens and their caregivers. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, “Technology’s Child” offers some valuable suggestions for supporting our teens:
- Get Curious: Engage in conversations to understand why your teen is drawn to technology.
- Celebrate and Validate: Celebrate your teen’s wins and interests on social media. At the same time, let them know it’s okay to have struggles and challenges.
- Offline Engagement: Encourage and facilitate the creation of offline spaces and connections. Help your teen find ways to express themselves and hang out with friends beyond the screens.
There is no magic solution to managing tech use for neurodivergent teens. However, by embarking on this journey alongside our teens, we’re not just helping them navigate the digital world; we’re building resilience and fostering skills like self-reflection, self-regulation, and crafting well-being plans tailored to their unique needs.