Our kids have never known a world without smartphones. Children are getting their own smartphones at younger and younger ages, some as little as six-years-old. It is up to parents to decide what the right age for their child to get a smartphone is. But, research does show it can have negative effects on young people: it has been linked to depression, insomnia, high stress, and a huge decline of face-to-face-interaction, which may have long term effects on social development.
If you feel like your child, preteen, or teen is a bit obsessive about their smartphone, consider these 5 tips to help curb some of those bad habits (psychcentral.com):
1. Model by changing your own behavior
Children mimic adult behavior. In fact, keen observation by children as young as toddler age shows a pattern that parallels what their parents do. If you’ve always got your smartphone in your hand, drive while texting, using social media, dashing off an email or checking directions, making a reservation and so on, guess what? Your kids learn by the behavior you model. While the habit may currently be tough to change, on both sides, you can make a conscious effort to reduce your digital distraction, put down the smartphone and pay more attention to your kids one-on-one. After all, there’s no greater connection than that which exists between parent and child. Besides, limiting your time on electronic devices is healthier for your own well-being as well.
2. Insist on device-free meals.
How long does a meal last? Surely this time can be devoted to talking with each other about the day’s events, future plans, interests, anything concerning, laughing and showing affection for each other as a family. For this to happen, though, you must insist that smartphones be turned off, put on silent or, better yet, left in another room. If it’s not sitting on the table beside them (or you, for that matter), it can’t serve as a distraction from what is supposed to be a time of family bonding. Besides, recent research found that even minor phone usage during meals made diners feel distracted and reduced their mealtime enjoyment. Pew research also found that when one person uses a cellphone at the table, others are likely to follow suit. Your kids are going to object, probably quite strenuously, saying you’re being unreasonable, that they have to be available for an important call or text. Be the parent. Make mealtime smartphone-free time.
3. Turn Off Phones at Bedtime
Considerable research on the harmful effects of blue light from electronic devices in the bedroom should be enough to convince you to incorporate a new house rule: all phones are to be turned off at bedtime. At the very least, make sure they’re left in another room so the temptation to glance and use won’t interfere with sleep. Expect another outcry from your kids. Tell them this is the appropriate time to charge the phone’s battery. Everyone wants a full charge, the better to do all that streaming, right?
4. Insist that homework comes first.
Kids can talk for hours – make that text, send IMs and hang out on social media. This can definitely result in plummeting grades. Let your kids know that homework comes first and communicating with friends comes later. Of course, you’ll have to monitor what they’re doing to ensure that the activity is homework. Another caution: don’t fall for the excuse that their friend/classmate is involved with them in a project and they have to communicate. If that’s the case, invite the friend over so the two can study/work on the project together, in real time.
5. No games (such as Fortnite) on school nights.
Maybe your teen or adolescent is hooked on video games. A simple rule to help squash that problem: no games at all on school nights. And, in addition, time spent on such gaming is limited when it is allowed. No endless hours spent with the controller, eyes glued to the big screen. One recent study estimates that 160 million American adults play Internet-based games, although another survey found that 0.3 to 1.0 percent of the general population might qualify for a potential diagnosis of acute Internet gaming disorder.
Project B3 knows that setting boundaries and putting new rules in place for some families can be challenging. Especially when they are first introduced. But, this list was actually much longer from psychcentral.com and we reduced it to the rules that we think are the most helpful. Family time, homework, and sleep should be top priorities for the young people in your lives (not necessarily in that order!).