If Only My Teen Came with a Universal Remote By Lori Payne, LPC-S

Being a teen in the millennium means being constantly connected. If you want to cause a teenager to have a near-panic attack, just try taking away his cell phone. Then there’s the computer for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, chat and IM (instant messaging); the IPOD for tunes; the TV for distraction. For many teens, the idea of not being connected to someone or something for a period of time is unthinkable. This generation of youth lives in a world of overstimulation. In his new book, Thrilled to Death, Dr. Archibald Hart says, “Our continuous pursuit of high stimulation is snuffing out our ability to experience pleasure in simple things.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could “unplug” your teen for a while? When is the last time your teen took the time to just “be”? Is she comfortable in her own skin? Does he know what his beliefs about the world are or who he wants to be? Teens are social beings and developmentally they are making steps toward individuation. Part of this process involves affiliation with peers. The problem is the sheer amount of time spent “plugged in” to external stimuli, leading to the constant overstimulation. This perpetual state of over-stimulation can lead to real problems for your teen in the areas of attention and concentration, in addition to the aforementioned internal issues.
When is the last time you spent some time observing your teenager studying? Take an opportunity to do this and pay attention to their ability to sustain attention and retain what they are studying. You may be surprised. In order to teach teens to find some quiet time to “just be,” parents must examine their own lifestyle and make sure they are setting the example. Then comes the fun part - - setting boundaries. Since no one has yet invented that universal teen remote, the next best thing is setting and maintaining boundaries (Parents, Teens, & Boundaries by Jane Bluestein is a good resource). This means clearly explaining to your teen what the limits are related to use of the cell phone (including texting!), the computer, the IPOD, video games, the TV, and anything else that keeps her plugged in continually. Now, I can almost guarantee that one response your teen may have once all the external stimuli are turned off for a period of time is, “I’m bored.” Translation: “I can’t think of anything to do.” This is where your teen has the opportunity to develop his creativity and imagination, as well as those hopes and dreams.
“This is your life, are you who you wanna be?” That is a line from a favorite song of mine by Switchfoot and it speaks to this generation of youth. Part of being a teen is figuring out who you are. But how can your teenager know who she is if she never slows down long enough to see who’s in the mirror? Parents must set the pace by modeling stillness. Then create opportunities for your teen to be unplugged and follow up by encouraging them to share those hopes and dreams.

[Originally written in August 2008]

Author's Bio: 

Lori Payne is a Licensed Professional Counselor & Supervisor who specializes in working with teens. She has worked in residential, outpatient, & school settings over the past 13+ years & currently has a private practice. Additional specialties include self-injury & substance abuse. Lori seeks to assist teens in finding their voice & identity while creating a healthy, vibrant path. She also enjoys working with adults & families dealing with various life issues. Lori's main purpose is to make a difference.