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Quinn Knight: Disconnect to reconnect with your teenager

Eileen Quinn Knight

Eileen Quinn Knight

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Updated: September 20, 2012 10:16AM



The creation of more efficient ways to communicate information with each other is an important aspect of technology in schools, at home, at leisure and wherever life leads us. The need for balance in the use of technology is evident in working with teenagers and their families.

Here are some basic facts.

More than half (51 percent) of parents either do not have or do not know if they have software on their computer that monitors where their teenagers go online and with whom they interact.

Forty-two percent of parents do not review the content of what their teenagers read and/or type in chat rooms.

Teenagers who text use chat lingo to communicate and parents don’t know the meanings of some of the most commonly used phrases. Fifty-seven percent don’t know LOL (laughing out loud), 68 percent don’t know BRB (be right back), and 92 percent don’t know A/S/L (age/sex/location).

Nearly three out of 10 (28 percent) of parents don’t know or are not sure if their teens talk to strangers online.

Ninety-five percent of parents couldn’t identify common chat room lingo that teenagers use to warn people they’re chatting with that their parents are watching. Those phrases are POS (parent over shoulder) and P911 (parent alert).

Thirty percent of parents allow their teenagers to use the computer in private areas of the house, such as a bedroom or a home office. Parents say they are more vigilant about where their teens go online if the computer is in a public area of the household.

IPads, iPhones and iPods make the issue of monitoring even more difficult.

In schools

The use of technology by both teachers and students becomes more effective when you can show portions of films, PowerPoint presentations or YouTube clips that solidify the lesson by offering a visual representation of the concept under consideration. However, the art of conversation is an important one for teenagers as they become in tune with the adult world. One of the ways schools could help draw students into conversations with others is to allot an hour, half day, or a scheduled time period each day for students to disconnect from technology.

At home

One of the best ways to keep track of teens is through a cell phone. You’ll learn what they are doing, where they are going and other activities. But if you want to really reconnect with your teenager(s), then you must set aside an hour each day or week to pursue the art of conversation.

This simple act would assist teenagers in feeling a sense of belonging and being loved in the family. We have a society that is far too preoccupied with the use of technology and its many fascinations, but there are just as many fascinations in the lives of parents and their children. It’s important for us to share some of the messiness of the day.

Sherry Turkle, in her book “Alone Together: Expecting More From Technology and Less From Each Other,” points out that the lack of conversation is costing our society as we begin to hide from each other not only in our houses but at work and in our leisure activities.

Turkle states we need to create sacred spaces where there is opportunity for conversation since self-reflection is a focal point of identity and the work of the adolescent.

At leisure

Before the Internet, cell phones and iPads, the lines between work and leisure time were markedly clearer.

People left their schools and offices at a predictable time and often were completely disconnected from school and work obligations. New technologies, from genetic research to the Internet, offer all sorts of benefits and opportunities, but technological tools appear to be killing off leisure time.

When new tools make life more difficult and stressful rather than easier and more meaningful, then something has gone seriously awry, both with our expectations for technology and our understanding of how it works.

What can we do?

1. Carve out a small portion of the day for conversation with your teenager. Investigate with him or her any issues that seem to be on their mind.

2. Share with your teenager those things in life you think are interesting and that would include them such as cooking, volunteering, books you read and movies you take time to see together.

3. Share in the messiness of life — that is part of who we are, and it’s also a lot of fun as we figure out together how to remedy certain situations.

4. Encourage them to develop the sacred space where they can reflect on things that are important to them without interruption. You are teaching them the art of clearly thinking through their choices in life.

5. Encourage them to develop a hobby or an interest in plants, books, music, art and/or theater.

6. Encourage them to spend part of their leisure time assisting others in their neighborhood and cities.

7. Ask yourself each week how you have reconnected with your teenager — you’ll find there’s a lot of joy in doing so!

Eileen Quinn Knight is a professor at St. Xavier University who is an expert on methods for teaching math.



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