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When parents are glued to their phones, teens learn that this is appropriate behaviour

Build a better life

My son is in Class 8 and has become a smartphone addict. What do we tell him? Please guide.

Mrs and Mr. R. Kashi, New Delhi

It's important to empower teens to take control of their own use of smartphones and maintain a healthy balance. This isn't a one-time conversation. A few things you can do help provide guidance and support include the following:

Educate: Talk openly about the benefits and potential pitfalls of screen time. Lecturing rarely yields positive results, but asking your teens for input about the pros and cons can spark lively conversations. How does too much screen time affect us physically, emotionally, academically and socially? What can we gain from using our smartphones responsibly?

Make a plan: Talk about setting healthy limits and boundaries for the family and what checks and balances you can use to stick to them, like not allowing phone use during dinner. Remember, teens aren't the only ones prone to overuse. What happens if parents are pushing the family screen time limits?

Monitor use as a family: Teens look for workarounds when they feel like they're being watched. Make monitoring a family goal so that teens own up to their usage and behavior online. There are several apps available to monitor how and when your teens use their phones. The iPhone now has a screentime setting. You can use this to track usage and set healthy limits for specific apps (e.g. xx hours per day for social media) and to shut down apps at a certain time. Talk with your teens about healthy and realistic limits.

Create a check-in policy: Phones, tablets, and laptops should be removed from the bedroom at night to curb sleep disturbance and insomnia. Create a plan to check devices in at a certain time in the evening and out in the morning.

Establish screen-free zones: Meals, family outings, and social gatherings are examples of times when frequent checking negatively affects relationships. Set boundaries for screen use in these settings and stick to them.

Model healthy boundaries: When parents are glued to their phones, teens learn that this is appropriate behaviour. Stick to the limits and boundaries you set.

I have recently discovered that my younger brother is homosexual. My parents are not aware. I'm very nervous.

Name withheld, Kolkata

See my friend, don't get nervous! Its fine! I understand, that 'discovering' this wasn't a happy feeling but please don't create any situation that will lead your brother to take a drastic step or make him feel awkward. If he's really young, there could be a chance that this 'phase' will pass. But, if it doesn't, please be mature enough to make him feel comfortable as this is his preference and being homosexual is never an offence or crime! Live and let live.

My best friend's parents got divorced. He is shattered. I feel very helpless. We are in the 7th standard. How can I help him?

Dhruv Jha, Noida

Just be extra kind and extra supportive towards him. Help him in whatever little ways you can. With his homework, taking him out to movies, bringing him over to your place for studies, sleepovers or simple chit-chat. Your parents can also help you be beside him. Why don't you both join some salsa, music, art or something that interests you both? This is going to help him come out of this phase with ease. Good to see such a caring friend like you. I'm sure the clouds will fade and your friend will recover soon!

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