Media Alternatives for Teen

I had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Junnifa of today. I always love connecting with her. The passion she has for the Montessori pedagogy is inspiring.

She mentioned a situation that many parents of teens face and encouraged me write about it, and so here it is.


Before I get started allow me this: we love media and the wireless age.

I might even shamelessly admit that we are in the “Apple Ecosystem”. But we want the boys to love and respect media. We also want them to love and respect their bodies and this beautiful planet. So, we make a huge effort to limit screen time. Even with Anthony.

Many of course know the extremely detrimental effects of allowing young children excessive screen time, but many don’t realize that those same effects are seen in teens.

So, who better to talk about media alternatives for teens than the very teen I’m referring to. These answers are his own. All pics above are of the exact item that Anthony owns with the exception of the pack and the bike. His are previous years models.

Me: “So, thanks for doing this.”
Anthony: “It’s fine. Actually, it’s a little weird.”
Me: “So, even though I already know, can you state for the record how much media time your friends get?”
Anthony: “Most of them get whatever they want.” They wake up, they’re on it all day, they stop to sleep. Or maybe go out with friends.”
Me: “Why? Why do they do it all day?”
Anthony: “Well, that’s because most everything else isn’t as fun. Or, I guess that’s what they think.”
Me: “So, what are some of the things Dad and I do for you to get you off your “media”? What are your favourite things to do instead that we help out with?”
Anthony: “Well, you help out with it all. It’s all you. Without you, I would just be like everyone else.”
Me: “Do you wish we gave you more “media” time?”
Anthony: “Yes.” (Accompanied by an eye roll and a shifty smile)
Me: “Do you think later on when you are older, that you’ll thank us?”
Anthony: “One day when I’m, like 40? Yeah. Probably.”

We realized early on that without our effort as parents, media would consume him. And so, here is his list of things that are his favourite alternatives to media. As a quick side note, he is not a sports kid, or I would have added that. When people ask
him what he plays, he looks them square in the eye and says “violin”.

Bikes, skateboards and all things outdoors with wheels: get on and go out.

A backpack full of snacks and gear: head to the nearest green spot independently or camping/hiking with us. A family hike does wonders. Pack them an inexpensive camera. It’s so interesting to find out what holds their gaze.

Books: from comic strips, to graphic novels to Game of Thrones. Find something they will read. Trust me. They will thank you for it.

Party food for friends: Anthony’s friends are always welcome at our house. Even if we as parents are busy we try very hard never to say “no” to having friends over. Why? Because when they are not safely in my basement, they could be anywhere else. All party snacks and non alcoholic beverages provided by us. Believe me when I say this is not an easy or inexpensive task.

Local Rec Centre activities guide: we are extremely lucky to have a centre in our small town. Swimming and skating with friends are always popular choices as well as special events.

I didn’t add it to the picture because Anthony didn’t mention it, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway. He loves projects. Anything he can make. Check out our Instagram feed for pictures of Anthony and his projects. Favourites have been a catapult and a water purifier.

So there it is. If you want your child to get off their device and go out into the world, you have to give them the keys to do it.



4 Replies to “Media Alternatives for Teen”

  1. Thank you for taking time to write this post Beth. It confirmed my suspicion that engaging adolescents still requires some effort on the adult’s part. It was also nice to see his point it view.

    Can you tell me what your limits are around media use? Is it just time or are there other considerations?

    1. In our house for all of us the guidelines are the same. Our family values and morals must be reflected in all things, including our media use. Therefore he has “parental controls” locked on his iPod. Yes, we as parents do set an “ideal” time limit. This means that it is an upper limit left open to discussion. We are also not so blind as to see that the modern world runs on media. Therefore we would hate to deprive him of the opportunity to seek out information or connect with the world for a purpose simply because he has used all his time. In rare cases we have extended the time limit to allow for certain learning opportunities.
      We also have “Grace and Courtesy” lessons expected. It’s funny because I always thought these were most important in the 3-6 class. Oh how I was wrong. For example, regardless of time used, personal media will never: show its face at our meals, take precedence over anything happening in reality at that moment, and be loud enough to escape ones headphones while sitting next to someone else.

      These are just a few. It is a huge topic. But we discuss it. Openly without fear of punishment when ever we can with each other because it’s important.

      1. Thank you so much for your detailed answer. I love that the guidelines for everyone is the same. I just love that. How respectful. I also think for that age it is great to discuss the ideas and limits with the child. Such a great preparation for making good choices in adulthood. Thanks Beth! You’re an inspiration 🙂

  2. Great post, Beth (and Anthony!) — I loved the realness of the interview: “Actually, it’s a little weird.”

    What really stood out to me was the point about party snacks. My parents had a very open home to our friends and although I don’t really remember them making extra effort in the snack department, by virtue of being open to having teens in the home (and not just unseen, in the basement, watching TV), we always had a lot of friends around. My parents got to know who was important to us and what was going on in our lives. There was mutual respect, safety and lots of good multi-generational conversation and debate.

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