This evening over 300 parents assembled at the Rocklin Community Center to address the things they need to know and can do to help teens deal with the stresses of modern life that if unchecked can lead to depression and suicide. The presentation was delivered by Wellness Together, a Rocklin non-profit dedicated to improve the mental health of California students.

Marlon Morgan, M.A., LPCC, PPS, Executive Director of Wellness Together.

Marlon Morgan is the Executive Director. “Tonight we are going to talk about information and relationships,” he said. “For youth born after 2000, we are dealing with a very different generation. From 2006 to 2015, teens reporting an episode of depression increased from 7.9% in 2006, to 12.5% in 2015. And the significant event in 2007 that correlates with this trend is the introduction of the smartphone in 2007.”

And for all the worry about youth and how their use of devices impact their health and well being, there is a disconnect on the part of parents who believe they are modeling responsible and healthy use of devices, but are actually doing the opposite as reported by the American Psychological Association in a study released last February. According to this study, 58 percent of parents feel like they are attached to their devices because they are checking email regularly during work and non-work hours. And while 97 percent of parents report that they take measures to limit use of the devices (at dinner time, and turn in the phone at night, etc.), over 58 percent of parents report concern that their child is attached to the mobile phone.

So what’s a parent to do to break this disruption, this disruption of attention required to really connect and give meaning to the parent-child relationship so essential to feeling secure?

Morgan recommends parents take into consideration that lack of sleep is a big factor contributing to stress and mental health, and that teens need nine hours of sleep and are getting much less. He explains that one of the reasons why youth are not getting enough sleep is that they are on-line well into the night and early morning hours with their devices. Indeed the technology developers are very successful at making applications addictive to capture our attention, much like a drug. “The development of apps is about the race to the bottom of the brain stem”, he said. “We need to be aware that the successful app keeps us glued to the gadget.” Technology companies are selling ads with the promise of keeping our attention focused on the device. Help your teen to recognize the compulsion to be “always on” as a manipulation, and they will likely be more willing to collaborate with you to set their own limits.

Read more: How tech savvy teen’s brains are hacked and what to do about it

According to Morgan, the most important thing parents can do for their stressed out teens is to give them the gift of listening. That means that parents need to stop assuming they know what their teens’ issues are. Teens today have teenagehoods very different from that of their parents, and they need somebody to really listen without trying to fix their problems, impose their opinions or judge and criticize them for their issues or concerns.

Being an active listener is easier said than done. Parents will need to set aside their own emotional reactions to their child’s issues or concerns. One way to do this is to seek the hidden meaning behind your teen’s complaints. Below are a couple of examples:

Sample 1: “I don’t like school, it’s boring.”

Possible hidden meanings: it is too difficult and needs help; there may be social issues; questions about how it applies to their future; it is not challenging enough; or your teen is simply not engaged.

Sample 2: “You can’t take my phone away, it’s mine. And I pay for it.”

Possible hidden meanings: I feel scared and out of control; it hurts that you do not trust me; what will my friends think of me if I do not have my phone?

Sample 3: “All you care about is my grades”

Possible hidden meanings: I feel like you don’t know me; I feel unloved; I feel judged; I fell like I am not good enough

Keep in mind that feelings are valid, but they are not the facts. It is important to help your teen recognize their own emotional reaction as valid, and then reason through a response as a collaboration with you to help set them up for self-discipline and success.

To learn more about the counseling services, go to: Wellness Together

To learn more about creating a family culture that promotes open communication and helps parents build trust with tech-savvy teens, go to: Fresh Start

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About:  We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).

Joanna Jullien, Founder & CEO of Core Connectivity
Photo by: Victoria Hatch

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.