It is indeed important for parents to strike a balance between their child’s privacy and involvement in their digital lives to ensure safety and emotional development in the digital age, Dr Yaa Akyaa Boateng, Family Physician Specialist has said.
Dr Boateng, who works at the International Maritime Hospital (IMaH) in Tema, said despite the fact that the world is now heavily influenced by digital devices and online platforms, parents must be keen in monitoring the interactions and time spent in various online spaces by their teens.
Adding to that, monitoring and setting boundaries for teenagers’ online activities is important to ensure their safety and responsible use of the internet until they develop the maturity to make informed decisions.
Dr Boateng gave the advice at the weekly, “Your Health! Our Collective Responsibility! A Ghana News Agency Tema Regional Office initiative aimed at promoting health-related communication and providing a platform for health information dissemination to influence personal health choices through improved health literacy
Speaking on the topic, “Adolescent Health Awareness,” Dr. Boateng, therefore, urged Ghanaian parents to consistently monitor the digital behaviours of adolescents while balancing their need for privacy.
Dr Boateng explained that the World Health Organisation’s definition of adolescence, spanning ages ten to 19, underscored the significance of this developmental stage.
She said the period provides individuals with a transition to gaining independence, yet they still rely on the support and guidance of their parents or caregivers, making it crucial for parents to provide a safe and nurturing environment during this transition.
According to Dr Boateng, monitoring a teenager’s online activity can provide valuable insights into the websites they visit and their online behaviour.
“It’s a proactive step to help guide and educate them about responsible internet usage. Parents can also block the usage and access to some sites, which can affect their mental well-being,” she said.
She advised that parents should set restrictions on internet usage and establish time limits for their teenagers to help in managing screen time, ensuring a healthy balance between online and offline activities, and promoting a more structured routine.
“Parents must set ground rules in their homes. Observing that your adolescent child wants more privacy and time alone could be a warning sign of depression, anxiety, smoking, alcohol, or drug usage.
“Even spending too much time alone on the internet poses both mental and physical health challenges for them. You need to pay attention to them,” she said.
She encouraged parents to spend quality time with their adolescent, engage them in conversations to know their thoughts on social issues, and involve them in adolescent clubs within their communities.
“Parents must also build trust and open communication where adolescents feel safe sharing their thoughts and concerns with their parents while facilitating their emotional and mental well-being as they navigate the challenges of adolescence.
“It is best to monitor your adolescent child, know them very well, and give them the kind of freedom you want,” she noted.
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