3 Ways to Combat Your Kids' Screen Time Addiction
As anyone who has a teenager can tell you, cell phone addiction is a real thing. Here's your guide for how to fight it.
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Do you remember those halcyon days of family togetherness? Sitting at the dinner table, you would regale each other with stories, either real or imagined. You would play board games together of an evening, and have family movie nights at the weekend. They were good times, but chances are, especially if your children are a little too attached to their phones, those days might now be a thing of the past!
You see, according to research by Common Sense Media, 50% of teenage children surveyed did feel addicted to their phones, and 59% of parents considered it a real problem in their homes. It's the uncontrollable urge to check texts. It's the desire to stay forever connected on social media. And it probably has something to do with gaming too; blasted Candy Crush!
And it's not only teenagers, as children of all ages are now becoming addicted to their phones, even 2-4 year-olds according to this article. It's a pandemic, and to ensure your children don't fall prey to smartphone addiction (assuming they haven't already), you need to do something about the problem.
You can do this in the following ways.
#1: Set Household Rules
Okay, so we know that rules suck, especially for kids, but they need to be put in place, so your children are able to live responsibly and safely.
You might want to make it a rule that no phones are allowed at the dinner table, for example, and you might have a cut off time before bedtime too. As is always the case when you set a new rule, try one rule at a time and enforce it VIGILANTLY until it’s habit. Then add a second rule. Too many new rules at once is a surefire way to overwhelm a kid.
Screen time is bad for our children's sleeping patterns anyway (and for our own), so you can use this fact to encourage them to switch off early. And after setting rules, remember to stick by them yourself.
Your children will protest if they catch you sneakily catching up on your Facebook posts, so to encourage better habits in them, follow the rules you set in your own life as well.
#2: Make Time for Family Time
If you have given up on family time because of your children's preference to spend more time with their phones than you, then you need to make an effort to turn things around.
Sure, your children might kick up a fuss if you tell them that their phones are not invited to the activities you organize, but they should stop caring once they start having fun doing something that isn't screen-related.
You’re also less likely to engender resistance if you’re also forced to put down your phone, stop checking your work email, and actually pay attention to the kiddos.
Check out our list of family time ideas, and then start to incorporate any that take your interest into your weekly schedule.
#3: Encourage Sports, Hobbies, and “Real World” Activities
Are there any hobby groups and clubs in your area? Youth sports leagues? Classes in actually fun things (like cooking, photography, or whatever your kiddo is actually into)?
If so, ask your children what they might be interested in and encourage them to go. You might also want to do something together as a family, so think about activities that you might all enjoy away from home (and away from a wifi connection), and make it a weekly habit.
Also, there’s nothing wrong with some tasteful bribery to grease the wheels into a new activity. Trying to sell them on swimming? Try tempting them with some new swag (like this adorable boys swimwear or my daughter's favorite swim-friendly mermaid tail). Similarly, letting them pick out their own gear for hiking, roller skating, bowling, or anything else that is fun and active (and completely unreliant on a phone or any other internet-enabled device) might make it feel more fun.
You shouldn't ban your children from their smartphones, no matter how tempting that might be.
(At least not on a permanent basis. I’m all for it as a darned effective short-term punishment.)
But you can manage the time they spend on them by setting a few rules. Also, by finding fun activities that can distract them from their screens, you might curb any addictive tendencies that they might already be prone to.
Let us know what you think, and if you have any other suggestions, be sure to let us know in the comments below.
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About the Author
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Liz (or Dr. Mommy, as her toddler started calling her after learning what a PhD was) is the happily sleep-deprived mom of a baby boy (and professional raccoon noise impersonator), a sparkle-clad toddlernado, a teenage stepdaughter, the canine embodiments of Pinky and The Brain, and a rabbit of unusual size. During nights and naptimes, she uses her PhD in business psychology as an author, speaker, and consultant. She also serves as an executive and principal for three companies, two of which she co-founded with her very patient (and equally exhausted) husband.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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