By Mindy Gallagher
My 13-year-old son sent more than 6,000 texts last month. If that’s 20 seconds per text, then he spent more than 13 hours texting!
When my husband and I realized that he sent this amount of texts in each of the last four months, we pulled the plug. We took his cell phone away. Cold turkey. Our intention was to take it for two days, but after two days, we noticed a remarkable change in our son. He became more engaged in family conversations and activities and more focused on what is happening around him. Most importantly, he seemed like a happier kid.
The biggest surprise of all: he has only asked for his phone back once and that was to find a friend’s phone number.
I know cell phones can be a huge convenience and I know my son will get his phone back eventually, but parents, it’s time think about what they are doing to our kids and our families! Here’s what experts recommend when it comes to managing screen time for kids.
1. Determine Your Family’s Approach
Your approach may not be your neighbor’s approach, but in order to set consistent limits on technology, parents must first determine what they will and will not tolerate. And then set up some structure in their homes, so those expectations are followed. Many experts recommend no screens after bedtime, no screens at meal times (especially during those all-important family dinners), and some time away from screens every day.
2. Model Appropriate Use of Technology
It’s an age-old saying, but it’s true: kids follow the example, not the rule. If you don’t want your teenager to be on his or her phone all the time, then model restraint in your own use of technology. Experts also recommend no screens at bedtime or during family meals for everyone, not just for teenagers, so if those rules are important to you, than be sure to model them.
3. Be Thoughtful About When to Take the Phone Away
Your teenager may occasionally need a technology time out — and that’s okay. But parents should be respectful and thoughtful about when they take away a teenager’s phone. Grabbing it away in anger isn’t helpful and won’t produce the desired effect. Instead, set limits ahead of time, so your teenager knows what infractions will result in the loss of a phone (watching Netflix instead of doing homework, say). In today’s world, recognize that phones have become so enmeshed with our teenager’s lives that cutting them off cold-turkey can isolate a teenager from his social world, as well as potentially an important academic tool (for example, many teenagers now participate in group study chats).
Mindy Gallagher is social media manager of Your Teen.