I have a 15-year old son in a split living situation---one week with Mom, one week with Me. I am trying to figure out what to do with him and technology. Video gaming has become an addiction. I am okay with 30 minutes a day if everything else is done. He does not follow anything that I lay out for him in terms of boundaries. Cellphone (smartphone) has become a huge issue, too. He is violating boundaries as well and manipulating by saying I don't trust him because at Mom's house, she lets him make his own decisions regarding technology. I have a digital contract we are to go through, but I am extremely frustrated as he continues to lose interest in other things. He does school and year round swimming well, but has lost interest in most things. Friends are a pretty good group. He sees his phone and video games as ways to stay connected with them. He continues to withdraw at home. I recognize he is playing me against Mom. His sisters and my new wife are very concerned. Definitely showing addiction.
The overwhelming preoccupation/enslavement to screens and "what's a parent to do", may be the most prevalent issue that I encounter as a Parenting Coach. Here are some thoughts, more specific to your situation:
1. We are living in a day of the Milquetoast Dad. Are YOU one? You know--the kind of dad where a child does not "follow anything I lay out for him in terms of boundaries"? When I read that quotation above, I assumed that there may very well be a problem with parental authority.
2. He is "manipulating" you? By saying you "don't trust him because at Mom's house, she lets him make his own decisions regarding technology"? Children of divorced parents play this game of Pit constantly---and sadly, nowadays it works more than ever. So does that ploy work on you? So again---are you a Milquetoast dad?
3. "Losing interest in other things" is of major concern. Where teens used to participate in and even perfect their lifelong hobbies and interests---the theater, archery, bowling, veterinarianism, martial arts, politics, sports, music, Indian history----they now instead are found upstairs in their bedroom with an electronic device, which has now become the most common activity of teens, according to research.
First--Your situation is most likely in need of the services of a Parenting Coach. I, as well as many others on this site, am well qualified to deal with your issue. It may be worth the few hundred dollar expenditure.
Second--Ignore any "mom lets me and you don't" manipulation attempts. Your response to those endeavors should be something to the effect, " Son, I guess I'm meaner than your mom. Get used to it. In our home, we will have a peaceful, productive, interactive household, where all are contributing members." True authority provides secure boundaries for a child.
Third--When he says that you "don't trust him"--- ignore, or respond with " Exactly---I wouldn't trust myself as a 15-year old, either." Your son's exploitative attempts should not affect you in the least and should not prevent you from doing what is right.
Fourth--I referred to you as a possible "milquetoast" because he violates all your boundaries and contracts. Therefore, due to his violations, why does he still have use of a smart phone in your home? Or any electronic device, for that matter?
Fifth--Your son could become a doctor, a lawyer, a historian, a head coach at a college, a premier counselor/psychologist, a principal, a business leader, a karate instructor, a businessman, etc, etc. But instead of learning about and honing his skills/aptitudes in these areas and many others while in his teens, he will ALWAYS default to his addiction--unless you put a stop to it. Disregard what goes on at the other household. You can't control that.
Sixth--He wants to connect with his friends? Consistently invite his friends over to YOUR house. Connecting in-person is the best way to connect, anyway. Of course, it should be a screen-free situation. They should check the electronics at the door.
And remember--if you "put your foot down"--as you should--get ready for Screams of Horror that will rend th' affrighted Skies! Once you survive that, you will gradually discover that the boy you used to know will start making a reappearance--once he has escaped the "unreality" of the Gaming/Electronic world. Be a Long-term Parent--by doing what is right and surviving the short-term.
I want to add also that it is important during the intense teen years to be loving and affectionate with your son--during those times when the Iron is a little less Hot.
"Milquetoastness" always hurts immeasurably the ones you want to help the most.
I do understand that there are many nuances to your situation of which I am unaware. That is why I do recommend the hiring of a Parenting Coach.
Mike Smart, CLPC