Windows of Opportunity: Family Systems Theory and Developmental Considerations for Supporting Youth, Parents and Clinicians in the Digital Age

Steven Barreto, Sue K. Adams, Jennifer Daly


Digital technology use is an integral part of children’s and adolescent’s lives. With the rapid evolution of technology, adult caregivers can easily feel overwhelmed by the daunting task of setting boundaries on technology use. Family systems theory offers a unique perspective for understanding how external factors (i.e., technology) can impede or enhance the family system, particularly when integrated into a developmental framework. Five clinical concepts are presented that weave together developmental tasks and family systems theory. This paper offers recommendations for clinicians to help parents understand the potentially harmful consequences of technology use across the developmental spectrum. We also provide recommendations for how to support parents in discussing technology use with their children and adolescents. Lastly, we offer suggestions for how the impact of technology use on development can be integrated into human service courses at the university level.

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