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Ask the Expert: How can I restrict my teenager son's phone use without a big row?

It can be very challenging for parents to find the right balance when it comes to their teenage children's internet use

Q: HOW can I restrict my 14-year-old son's internet use on his mobile phone, without it ending in a big row and me confiscating his phone?

A: Nina Bibby, chief marketing/family officer at O2, says: "Technology use on smartphones and tablets has sky-rocketed among young people in recent years – although you may be surprised to hear that as many as 99 per cent of children in your son's age bracket (12-15-year-olds) are now online.

"I have a 14-year old son myself, so I know first-hand how challenging it can be to find the right balance when it comes to internet use. How much screen time is too much? Is it eating into precious family time?

"Questions and concerns like these have made smartphone use a point of contention for many households, including my own, but this shouldn't mean conversations about your son's mobile use will always end in an argument or you having to confiscate his phone.

"Firstly, I would suggest you talk to your son about his favourite things to do online and explore with him the apps, games and social networks he spends time on. We recommend creating a family agreement that balances online life with offline life – you can find a template online (tinyurl.com/yanxlbax), as well as organising family activities where a phone or tech isn't needed.

"It's really important your son understands both the benefits and downsides of online activity, so you can agree a level of use you're both happy with.

"The next step is to manage the time he spends online – most computers, phones and tablets have settings that allow you to do this, but there are also plenty of parental control tools out there too.

"Of course, issues around children and technology can be difficult to navigate, especially in an age where internet access is so readily available. But there's lots of support out there and I'd also point you to the resources O2 has developed in partnership with the NSPCC (tinyurl.com/y89adztk) for more help and advice.

"Ultimately, our job as parents is to make decisions that are right for the wellbeing of children and families. For me, the best way to do this is by having regular conversations with my children about their online world and equipping myself with the tools to strike a healthy balance."

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