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Kids' Phone Safety Blog

Teen Tech Use Can Damage Reading, Literacy Skills

February 19, 2020

Parents who are concerned about their teens’ tech and smartphone use have learned to go out of their way to make sure that their kids aren’t spending so much time on their screens that they neglect other important things. You may require your children to put their phones away at the dinner table so that they can participate in family time, restrict the websites they can visit during homework time, or encourage them to sign up for extracurricular activities so that they have something else to do besides browse social media or play video games. But something else may be falling through the cracks – reading.

Why Aren’t Teens Reading?



Are smartphones keeping your teen from reading?

It’s not only smartphones that are contributing to teens’ lack of reading. Teens often find themselves pressed for time – school, social activities, extracurriculars, and sometimes jobs all make demands on a teenager’s time, leaving them with less and less free time to use reading for pleasure. 

In the time between obligations and activities, teens often turn to their smartphone, tablet, or laptop to occupy themselves, where years earlier the same teens might have picked up a novel or magazine to fill the time. Even when teens have more free time that could be spent reading, tech use tends to fill it. The addictive and neverending nature of the internet means that there’s always something else to look at, always another notification to check. Teens can spend hours on their phones without realizing it, sometimes even losing sleep in the process. 

It’s not just reading for pleasure that teens are missing out on. Some of them are also reading less even for school assignments. Online study guides, like Sparknotes, make it easy for students to bypass long books in favor of short summaries and notes. 

Why Reading Matters

A walk to remember book


Longform reading helps teens develop important skills that they’ll need in college and in the workforce.

It’s easy to miss that your teen isn’t reading for pleasure, especially if they’re generally busy, and it can also be tough to tell if they’re reading for school, especially if you haven’t noticed an unexplained drop in their grades. That means that a teen’s reading skills could begin to deteriorate over time, and the effects of this won’t be obvious until later. 

Reading, and especially reading long-form works like magazine articles and books, is an important key in developing writing and critical thinking skills. Reading also helps students improve their imaginations and their ability to see things from different perspectives. These skills are all important for teens’ development, and especially for teens who plan to attend college.

What Parents Can Do

Parents of teens should make efforts to make reading a priority in their homes. Regular trips to the library are beneficial for children and young teens, and it may also be helpful to look into library-based after-school programs that put children and teens in close proximity to books and encourage a love of reading.

It also helps for parents to model the behavior that they want their teens to display. Make time for reading yourself. Bring books into the house and make them easily accessible. Give books, or bookstore gift certificates, as gifts. Pay attention to your child’s interests, and introduce them to books, news articles, and magazine pieces about those subjects when you find them. Make reading a priority for the whole family, not just your teen. You don’t want them to perceive reading as a punishment or chore that you’re giving them. Focus on finding ways for your teen to enhance their enjoyment of reading, not just meet a certain requirement of hours or pages. 

Parental monitoring software can help you set limits and boundaries on your teen’s screen use, giving them more time for reading and other activities. To find out how it can work for your family,  get our free trial.

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