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August 6, 2015

Innovation is always met with the question “how will this change effect the next generation?” Lack of concentration, stifled self-esteem due to a lack of online attention, and irregular sleep patterns are just a few of the negative effects which can occur with overuse of technology. However, not all technology use is bad. There are many instances where technology can actually help your teen to be the best person he or she can be. Here are six ways technology can make a positive impact on your teen when used correctly.

1. Staying Connected with Distant Family Members

In many ways, the Internet has enabled us the ability to stitch our extended families back together and create a loving support system. It’s no secret that many teens and adolescents distance themselves from their parents as they attempt to determine their own sense of self. It can be difficult to influence your child in a positive way when they are struggling to communicate with you. Fluid communication with extended family can create a safe place for your teen to communicate struggles. Encouraging communication, whether through social media or email with the role models within extended family could help your teen feel heard without them feeling as though you are prying into their life.

2. Accessing Information on Almost Any Topic of Interest

Almost every piece of technology has access to information on any subject in which a student may be interested. This access allows young people to quickly expand their web of knowledge and learn new skills that may benefit them in all aspects of life. Of course, this benefit comes with a flipside, as the ability to see almost anything that you could imagine on the Internet—like reducing attention span or stumbling upon information that may be too mature for your child. Use a plugin to remove the noise from around the content, like Reader on mac and Readability on any platform. These two readers can help simulate the type of deep reading a book provides, but with any piece of content. There is also software available that is specifically made to restrict access to certain content and/or track what content your child is viewing online. This can help ensure that when your teen’s imagination runs wild, their search results stay civilized.

3. Feeling Understood and Accepted

Almost any parent of a teen has heard the phrase “you just don’t get me” at least once. And it’s true… to a degree. Adult brains work very differently than teenage brains, because we are wired differently. This can make misunderstandings common, leading many teens to search out someone who better understands them. This type of interaction can prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation from taking over a teen’s life, but could also create a dependence on digital attention. To prevent your teen from becoming too reliant on a digital source for their self-worth, set a good example for moderate and healthy technology use, encourage time spent away from technology and create a comfortable way for your teen to express their frustrations and emotions in-person.

4. Expanding an Understanding of Other Cultures and People

With 40 percent of the world’s population using the Internet, communication is easier than it has ever been before. A video can reach millions in minutes, and an email can cross an ocean in seconds. Being able to see the opposite side of the world and hear people of different cultures can really provide perspective in a teen’s life and how their actions can impact the world around them. An easy way to get your teen involved is to share stories and encourage them to follow international accounts—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flipboard etc.— that provide a positive look into the lives of those with different perspectives. It is important to continue to monitor your teen’s social media activity, to keep them safe from any potential danger near or far.

5. Staying Motivated

Technology today is all about making our lives easier. Almost every difficult aspect of our lives has some sort of technological solution. There are tools to track water consumption, monitor physical activity levels, inspire us in the morning and keep us organized throughout the day. If your teen is struggling with staying organized, try a calendar or reminder app to keep them on schedule. If they are becoming distracted with social media while trying to complete homework, look into an app or site that will simply eliminate the distractions. Help your teen to make the most of technology they are already using.

6. Working Smarter, Not Harder

Many researchers have pointed out that reading on a screen is much different than reading a physical book. When a person looks at an article on a screen they immediately try to pick out the most important aspects of the content. On the other hand, when reading a book most spend a great deal of time reading to comprehend the book as a whole. Jim Taylor Ph.D. states “the ubiquitous use of Internet search engines is causing children to become less adept at remembering things and more skilled at remembering where to find things.” This is very effective when doing schoolwork but doesn’t allow the brain to fully commit facts to memory. Taking trips to the library in free time will inspire your teen to explore other ways to learn. Creating a no-screen rule for the last hour before bed will not only inspire your teen to explore reading actual books, but also improve their quality of sleep as well.

The moral of story is echoed over and over again—Too much of anything is usually not a good thing. Mixing in a variety of activities is key to raising a well-rounded adult. It may be hard to gauge if your child is using technology in a way that is beneficial to their well-being, but these tools can help you make sure they are not overusing technology. If you think your teen is addicted to technology, Pacific Quest has written a guide to help you understand and identify the signs and how you can help. Download our free guide here.

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