We are not bashing cell phones. And we’re not suggesting kids should be denied having one (although in some cases that may be the answer). The challenge is in managing their use. A study by commonsensemedia.org reported that 66 percent of parents feel their teens spend too much time on their mobile devices. Interestingly, 52 percent of teens in the same study agreed.
Obviously, cell phones can be a problem. We asked our friends on Facebook what they are doing to help prevent their kids from being addicted to their mobile devices. Some didn’t have solutions — they wanted solutions. As one friend wrote, “Oh, my! I am like a child sitting anxiously at your feet for story time. Teach me! Despite my best efforts, my kids still spend far too much time on their phones!”
She is not alone. Many parents don’t know what to do. So you might consider trying one or all of the following:
1. Paint the phone case …
… baby pink and cover it with “Mommy loves you” and pacifier stickers, then glue the case to the phone. They will never bring it out in the presence of others. That’s sure to limit the amount of hours it’s used.
OK, you’re not going to do that; but it’s funny to think about.
2. Make them take a selfie with you …
… and text it to their friends every time they are on their phones while you’re trying to have a conversation with them.
OK, again, maybe not the best answer. But funny to think about.
So now let’s get serious and look at more practical suggestions from our FB friends and others:
1. Fill their lives with worthwhile options
Julia H. said, “Start them on piano at age 3 and buy them their own choice of a 2nd musical instrument at age 6. I know this may sound like it has nothing to do with electronics [and mobile devices], but it’s all about engaging them in positive worthwhile activities. For some of our neighbors, each seasonal sport did the trick. For us it has been music and harmonizing together. As teens now, they have laptop time, but there’s no addiction or distance from actually living life.”
2. Be practical in doing what works for you
Dianna Z. said, “I work outside the home, so electronics are really difficult to monitor. We do random checks on computers and FB pages. When it comes to cell phones, they don’t get one. Period. Not until they’re holding down a job and paying for their own. For us, that level of monitoring is just too much.” Examine your own life and see what works best for you. If you don’t have time to monitor your kids like you’d like to, no cell phones may be the answer. If it is, be sure to do it kindly – firmly, but kindly. No need to create an enemy. It can be done lovingly.
3. Send them outside
Rebecca W. said, “If you teach them to work, then send them outside, and remember who the parent in the home is, electronics won’t take over their lives. Also, I use screen time as a reward, not a right. One hour of chores earns a screen time. The playing outside may sound like a little kid thing, but it works. They can bike, skate board, walk the dog, shoot hoops, deliver things to a neighbor, mow the lawn, tons of stuff. It works.” She was not alone. Others suggested sending kids out to play really helped to separate them from their electronic devices.
4. Teach kids to communicate face-to-face
Julia H. said, “I’d rather start my kids out with a life where they at least learn how to communicate with people face to face first.” Alarmed by the number of people – young and old – who are glued to texting instead of talking, she said, ” I miss the days that I could strike up a conversation with a stranger sitting in line somewhere. Everyone’s on a phone. So one of my personal boundaries is to stay away from online opinion forums.” Limiting your own time on the phone matters. Even though strangers in a line are glued to their phone, try to catch their eye and smile. It’s a form of communication.
5. Talk openly about the dangers
Janel H. said, “Technology isn’t going away. It will surround them in every way. We have to come up with ways to teach our children about it, not to totally avoid it, because that’s not reality. Teach that it’s a tool for good when used wisely. [Many] high schools, colleges, and Sunday school teachers integrate it into lessons. [We need to] sit down with our children and talk openly about the dangers, opportunities, and situations where it wouldn’t be appropriate. Set boundaries with them, like no phone at the dinner table and other family times.”
One of the best ways to teach your children is to let them see you using your phone appropriately. If they see you always texting, always playing games on it or searching the internet on it too much, then they will do the same. If it dominates your life, it will dominate theirs. Teach them appropriate use of their mobile devices, then be the example you would want them to follow.