Teens and pre-teens deal with a lot, from technology and school pressures to making friends and driving. At Children's Hospital Colorado, we’re here to help teens (and parents) through it all.
Teens and technology
- Technology addiction can develop when a teen consistently uses media as a form of coping with things they don’t want to deal with. They switch their focus from the real world to a virtual world as an escape.
- An addiction to media can lead to everything from depression and anxiety, to social phobias and poor school performance.
- Parents should monitor your child's media use, and if you see warning signs that your child might be developing an addiction to media (i.e. they’ve stopped doing things with other people, they’d rather be on a computer or smart phone than attend a fun event in person, etc.), talk to your child's pediatrician or family physician.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day of high-quality content. It is important for kids and teens to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.
Handling school pressures
School pressure can range from getting good grades and preparing for college, to making (and keeping) friends and balancing extracurricular activities. That can be a lot of stress on a teenager.
There are several things teens can do to help deal with stress:
- Eat nutritional foods, including a lot of fruits and veggies.
- Get exercise every day, even if it’s just a short walk.
- Start on larger school projects early, and work on them a little at a time to avoid cramming.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Take a break from extracurricular activities occasionally to allow down-time to decompress.
See the American Academy of Pediatrics’ teen guide to managing stress.
Depression and anxiety in teens
Depression isn't just bad moods and occasional melancholy. It's not just feeling down or sad, either. These feelings are normal in kids, especially during the teen years. But when a depressive state, or mood, lingers for a long time — weeks, months, or even longer — and limits a person's ability to function normally, it can be diagnosed as depression.
- Make sure your child stays active. Physical activity has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
- Offer your love and support, and remind your child that you're there and want to hear what he or she has to say, even if it isn't pleasant.
- Depression and anxiety can appear very differently in teens. Find out more about the signs.
- Seek help from your pediatrician or contact Children’s Colorado. In an emergency, call 800-SUICIDE.
- Watch how Dance/Movement Therapy helped a patient named Katie work through her eating disorder.
Bullying and cyber-bullying
- One person's "joke" can easily lead to another person's hurt feelings. Coach children on considering how their words/actions could be interpreted by others.
- Research shows that hostility between siblings is not innocent and can leave a lasting, detrimental impact. Do not tolerate bullying or aggression between siblings.
- Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.
- Know your child’s online world – check their postings and visit sites they frequent.
Read more information on bullying.
- Be involved in your teen’s driving experiences; teens with involved parents are twice as likely to wear seat belts, and are half as likely to speed.
- Enforce limits and make sure the rules you set are realistic.
- Read more tips on the safest used cars for teens.
Talking about sex, drugs and alcohol
- Teach your teen to say "no, thanks" when an alcoholic drink or drugs are offered to them. Give them other suggestions if they feel they need to say more, such as “I already got in a lot of trouble for drinking once, I can’t do it again” or “My coach will kill me!”
- Make sure your teen knows to never to accept a ride from someone who has been drinking. Some parents find that offering to pick up their kids from an uncomfortable situation — no questions asked — helps encourage kids to be honest and call when they need help.
- Open family communication about sex does far more than just ease the journey through the growing up years. It allows for the sharing of family values. Parents can provide accurate and valuable information as well as promote a positive, respectful attitude toward sexuality. Open communication alleviates fears and anxieties and builds trust, understanding, and support.
- Learn more about teens, tweens and sexual health.
- Get tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics about how to approach sexual health with kids at different ages.
Learn more about teen health services at Children’s Hospital Colorado.