Top tips for controlling your child's mobile addiction
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Every parent worries about whether or not they're leading their children right and setting them up for a successful life as an adult, whatever success might mean in your family. The younger they are, the easier it is. Pre-teens are more likely to accept your instructions and authority as a parent with fewer questions, but teenagers quickly become far more independent and are influenced by many outside social factors that sometimes directly oppose your decisions as a parent.
In the age of smartphones, it's become even more difficult to know what the right thing to do is. On one hand, mobile devices open up a whole new world of possibility for your children, while also opening them up to less desirable influences and addictive behavior. One thing is for sure: the screens aren't going anywhere. So, here are a few tips to help reign in excessive use to make sure that such devices are being used in a constructive manner, rather than a destructive one.
Don't give up
It might sound a bit like we're cheating with this tip, but every parent needs to hear these three words repeatedly in any number of circumstances. Especially when it comes to smartphones, not everything you do or say will have the exact consequences you hoped for, and that's ok. There are no perfect parents, only parents continuously doing the best they can at the moment.
The worst thing you can do is give up in frustration, even temporarily. Your children will subconsciously take note of your limitations and try to push them further and further. Patience and perseverance are key. Establish a strategy and stick to it for a while. If you see it's not working, keep calm and make a conscious decision of what to change and how.
Limit screen time smartly
There is no one-size-fits-all for every family, so see what works for you. A common practice is to ban phones from the dinner table and/or to have a set time every day when games and other entertainment uses are allowed. Your children will most certainly grumble, but there is less likely to be a problem if there are clear boundaries within which they know they will still get to use their devices however they choose, even if only for a limited time.
Use mobile devices for positive reinforcement
Addictive behavior is often a downward, negative spiral. To help keep device-use positive for your children, rather than just a numbing way to pass the time, think about positive reinforcement. Limiting screen time smartly will make screen time more valuable and appreciated and more can be allowed as a reward for good behavior or achievements.
Perhaps most important is to use mobile devices as a symbol of your children's increasing independence, responsibility, and growth. As they get older, you'll need to be more flexible, gradually letting them make their own decisions about smartphone usage. Finding the balance is difficult, but your children will find value in being able to look back and see their own growth and development reflected in how much you trust them with their devices.
There are tools to help. Use them.
Honestly, smartphones are incredible, and just as some apps are harmful if used poorly, there are plenty of other tools to help remedy this situation. Some apps help you monitor how your children use their devices, including overall time spent in front of the screen and in certain apps - like analytics that help you make the decisions you feel are best for your children.
Other options help highlight the educational properties of mobile devices, making screen time more valuable. Your own judgment is also an important tool. For example, some mobile games (played in moderation, of course), are both engaging for children and teach important lessons while encouraging critical or strategic thinking. Find and use these tools to turn screen time from a negative into a positive.
No doubt you've found other parenting strategies to moderate and improve the quality of your children's mobile device usage. There is no one best way to conduct yourself. Our last tip and perhaps the most important one is to discuss this topic with your spouse, your friends and of course, with your children. It's important to come from a place of authority, but also one of understanding. Letting your children have some input about their screen time is also important. So, how have you been making the most out of your children's mobile devices?