We Need to Talk About Kids and Smartphones and Smartdevices
Gone are the days when you would consider internet a safe place to be. It is certainly not, especially for the young children – preteens and teens
There is definitely something addictive about the ping of a text and the scrolling counter telling us how much others “like” us. It’s made us all (children and adults) into gamblers, sitting in our bedrooms just like slots players sit in windowless casinos, forgetting the time of day, addicted to the next spin and the possibilities it brings.
There’s more bad news too. Seems that with all that online addiction is also coming more bullying, which is only fueling our kids’ anxiety.
Strategies for Parents
How about we as parents try some new strategies:
1. Model appropriate phone use. Start with what we can do. Leave our phones at the door. Turn them off at mealtime. Don’t harass our kids with endless texts checking up on them. If we model restraint, maybe our kids will see it’s possible.
2. Limit access. Stop paying for the darn phones. If your child is addicted, cut them off. A simple rule I hold to is that in general, when a child can afford a device they are likely responsible enough to have it. Let your child buy their own phone, their own data package, their own gaming systems. Hold back from giving them everything they think they need to be like every other kid and let them feel that lovely self-esteem boost of knowing “I’m a little different” which could also translate into “I’m unique”. The way I see it, if they’re motivated to find work, and get themselves online, then they’re less likely to have the time to become addicted to their phone.
3. Set routines and structure. No phone use at bedtime. Turn the phone off and put it away. Any addiction that triggers a change in brain functioning is going to be difficult to control as long as it’s there at hand ready to light up our neural pathways. As parents our job isn’t meant to be easy. It’s meant to prepare children for life and that means telling them “No” when really, deep down, that’s what they want to hear anyway.
4. Offer substitutes. Create opportunities for kids to keep busy. Give them chores and real responsibilities that matter to the family. Planning a winter vacation and they’re coming along? Any 14-year-old with good net surfing skills can find a hotel on a beach, or scope out activities to do off site at the all-inclusive. Let’s stop making our children’s lives so easy and in the process offer them real diversions. Insist they are active an hour a day. Put them into activities and take away their phone. Oh there will be histrionics, but the end result will likely be a happier, more engaged child with the life skills and habits that will make them healthier more successful adults.
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