It is a pretty common picture these days to look around a room and see about 80 – 90% of the people on their cell phones. Whether they are young or old, teen or parents… it doesn’t seem to matter. One report in 2016 from Common Sense Media showed that 72% of teens and 48% of parents feel the need to respond immediately to notifications, text messages, or social media messages. That same study found that 50% of teens admit to feeling addicted to their phones.
While using a cell phone throughout your day does not mean that you are addicted to it, but there is certainly a tipping point – especially when it comes to our teens. As a parent, we need to be able to differentiate between using it for fun, entertainment or resource and not ever being able to put the thing down to live life outside of a screen.
Technology is not going anywhere anytime soon. So, lets talk about some healthy boundaries that we can set with our teens to help them better manage cell phone usage, and decrease their chances of becoming addicted to it.
It is important to talk openly with your teen about the pros and cons of cell phones. Obviously, there are some benefits for teens to have a phone and there are also some potential dangers too. Everything from online predators, to inappropriate material, and as we are discussing here – becoming addicted to your cell phone. Having a healthy conversation (not a lecture) with your teen is a great place to start. Be sure to ask them to share their thoughts and input on the positives and negatives of using a smartphone.
Talk with your teen about setting some healthy boundaries and limits with using their cell phone responsibly. In this conversation, talk about things such as putting your cell phone down when someone is talking to you, not having cell phones at the dinner table, putting your phone away during homework or while doing school at home. These things can all help them to not only focus and engage on whatever is in front of them, but it also helps them to develop healthy relational skills that they will desperately need for adulthood.
Turn Notifications Off
This is a simple way to reduce the desire to constantly check their phone whenever the notifications buzz. It is as easy as going into the settings and turning the notifications off on all of the apps – from Twitter, to games, to Instagram and even new posts. Plain and simple, whatever it is sending the notification for will still be there the next time they go into the app anyway. So they will not miss out on anything.
Create a Check In Time Before Bed
We all know how much sleep teens need for their growing body and minds, right! Studies show that cell phone usage disrupts the ability to get good sleep if used right before bedtime.
Perhaps consider have a charging station in a common area of the house where everyone places their cell phones over night. We’d recommend putting them there at least an hour before bedtime.
Encourage Alternative Activities
Sometimes teens seem to forget about or set aside the things they once had passion for. Reactivating these passions can help to not only give them an alternative to screen time, but it can also remind them of the joy they get from doing these hobbies. Whether it be writing, drawing, model cars, reading, theater, playing a musical instrument, or just getting outside to throw a football… encourage your teen to pick up that paintbrush again and reignite their desires.
Have Free Screen Time
Allow for a couple hours a day where they can just be on their phone to connect with friends and play some games. As long as chores and schoolwork are done, it is good for them to have some down time. We have to remember that with all these boundaries it is still important for them to have time to just feel like a teen and still use their phone.
Model the Behavior
Remember, we as parents need to model this responsibility because our teens are not the only ones prone to becoming addicted to a device! It can be so easy to fall into the mindless scrolling trap or “I’m using it for work”. If we are always glued to our phones we are condoning the behavior and in turn teaching our teens that this is perfectly acceptable. So don’t forget to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
With these types of healthy conversations and boundaries in place, families can help establish better relationships in the home and also learn skills that will help your teen for the rest of their lives.
If you do suspect that you or your teen may have a cell phone addiction that is negatively affecting relationships, attitude, work, or just the daily functions of life, we want to encourage you to seek help. You may look into finding a therapist, and as oxymoron as this may sound, there are apps out there that can help curb excessive use. You may also find that mindfullness practices, deep breathing, yoga, and just physical exercise in general will help aid in bringing an overall sense of happiness and contentment.