Teens and Tech: Conversation Starters For Families | Janell Burley Hofmann | 2 Min Read

One of the biggest challenges modern families report is managing screen time for their teens and the overuse of tech. It can be a huge barrier to connection for families and a major source of relational tension. Our parenting generation really cares about the quality of our children’s lives and nurturing a healthy dynamic at home on and off our screens. One way we can do that is to consistently talk about tech like we would any other aspect of family life. The integration of parental curiosity about tech and the normalization of its existence in our teens’ lives is a critical and necessary component to raising tech healthy families.

In my work with parents and caregivers, they want to talk to their teenagers about tech, but they’re not sure how or where to begin. It’s ok if it feels forced or awkward if this type of open-ended discussion is new for you and your family. These questions are meant to be the beginning of a conversation with an unknown outcome. They may lead to a topical discussion or a value-based one. They may lead to a discussion of issues happening in your home, at school, in peer groups, or in the greater outside world. We may find ourselves with opportunities for teachable moments or we may find ourselves as the students, listening to learn more about our teens’ experiences, beliefs, and expertise. The more we practice, the easier and more natural these moments will feel. Meeting our teens where they are and showing interest in their lives — even their digital lives — allows for connection, trust, and understanding.

  1. What’s a fun account you follow that you think I might like?
  2. Which of the accounts that you follow has the most followers? Why do you think so many people like that person/account? How did they get that many followers?
  3. Have you ever unfollowed someone or an account? What changed your mind about them?
  4. Where do you get your news and information online? How can you tell that it’s a good and factual source? Have you ever believed something you saw online that turned out to be untrue?
  5. What are some online tools or apps that help you with your research, school work, or staying organized?
  6. If you became an influencer or went viral, what would you want it to be for?
  7. Why do you think teenagers like their screens so much?
  8. What’s a tech habit you want to change or improve for yourself? Which habit would you change for the adults?
  9. What is it about that game that makes it so popular? What do you think makes a great video game?
  10. In what ways do you think technology is positive? How is it challenging?

Tip: Don’t be afraid to share your experiences too! Feel free to answer each question right along with your teen. We often have more in common with our teens than we think!

Janell Hofmann

Janell Burley Hofmann is an international author, speaker and consultant specializing on the topics of technology, media, health, relationships and well-being. Janell is the creator of the original iPhone contract and a thought leader in the space of digital mindfulness, digital parenting and intentional use of tech. She is the author of the book, iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up published by Rodale, Inc. Janell is the founder of the Slow Tech Movement and iRules Academy. Janell has worked on four continents across diverse demographics, cultures, religions, and socioeconomics. Sensitive to the needs of each community, Janell works with schools, youth, families, educators, and organizations while offering private coaching and consulting sessions. Janell’s professional expertise and personal experience as a mother of five children builds strong connections with a wide and varied population. Janell engages readers, clients and audiences in relevant and meaningful conversations igniting personal empowerment, awareness and purpose in a partnership that will positively impact all. Janell’s academic background includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Media Studies, a Master’s Degree in Critical and Creative Thinking and she is currently working towards her licensure in mental health counseling. Her featured talks include two-time TEDx presenter, SxSW, YPO Southeast Asia Summit, Peace Corp Workshop Leader, Homecoming Day Nagoya University, Nagoya Japan, YPO Middle East Tour, Women2Women International Summit and MIT Strata Center. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Good Morning America, USA Today, National Public Radio, BBC News and The Associated Press.

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