My 15-year-old gets sucked into other things on the Internet almost every time he turns on the computer. This is hard because at his age he has a lot of homework that needs to be done on the computer. Any suggestions for keeping him from hopping to other sites or resisting distractions when he HAS to use technology for homework? What are the rules for setting limits for teens on the Internet?
This is a challenging question, not just for your 15-year-old, but for more than a few adults who spend a good portion of the day in front of a screen. The Internet offers so much to engage computer users that the moment you feel a bit bored or frustrated with what you are doing, you can simply move on to something else.
Here are a few suggestions for you and your son:
Give him the power… to take responsibility. Try to get your son to see the problem in the same way that you do. If you can partner with him instead of dictate to him, he’s more likely to make good choices — such as using a timer app like 30/30, which he can set to spend a specified amount of time before leaving his homework for the wonder of the Web. If, as with most teens, his phone is a distraction too, he can choose to give it to you for a set amount of time or activate airplane mode to prevent any notifications and make it that much more difficult to surf the net.
Designated browser. Designate one browser solely for doing homework (with only homework bookmarks on the toolbar), and one for recreational use. Then install an addon like Stay Focused for Chrome or LeechBlock for Firefox, which can easily be set to only allow access to specific homework sites.
Fuel his focus. Sitting down to work requires energy. Make sure he has the physical comfort and mental mindset needed to work efficiently when he turns on the computer to do homework. Perhaps he could exercise before homework, eat a healthy snack, have a cup of green tea, or do some stretching or yoga to center himself and stay alert and focused. This might increase the amount of time he can work before getting distracted. You might also make an allowance for distractions; I suggest that homework time be scheduled with short breaks for social media, casual games, or texting.
Control as a last resort. Many parents have problems when it comes to teens on the internet. But limit-setting really does work best when it’s a cooperative effort, especially with older kids. But if that doesn’t work, you may need to try closer monitoring and control. Move his computer out of the bedroom and install an app like ScreenTime on his tablet or phone.
Featured image: Flickr user Libelul