What is it about teenagers and their intimate relationships with their smart devices? It’s no secret that teenagers are some of the heaviest users of devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops. It really is baffling how quickly our kids get addicted to their phones, tablets, video games, or laptops and if it were up to them, they’d most likely be on them all day.
As parents, we worry about what they are doing on there all the time and about the impact all that screen time might have on our kids’ health—both physically and mentally. How can you as a parent help your teenager develop healthy habits that will not just curb the phone or tablet addiction but also help them build healthy habits that will follow them into adulthood?
There is hope, and it is possible, albeit it is work and it takes time. Here are some tips to get you started.
Lead by Example
Kids and teenagers do not learn healthy habits through constant instruction; they learn by continuous observation and inclusion. As the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” So, if you want your kids to develop healthy device habits, you must lead by example and model those behaviors yourself. Put down your phone during family meals and conversations. Avoid working on your laptop in bed at night (it’s not good for your back anyway). And take some time each day to unplug completely and connect with your family. When you consistently set a healthy example and have healthy habits yourself, you’ll be much more likely to encourage your kids to do the same.
Set Firm But Flexible Rules
Start by setting limits on the amount of time your kids can spend on devices each day. Then, create rules about when and where devices can be used. For example, you might require that devices be turned off during homework time or at the dinner table. You might also want to consider establishing a “bedtime” for devices so your kids are not tempted to stay up all night scrolling through social media.
Encourage Other Activities
A big part of helping your kids develop healthy device habits is encouraging them to participate in other activities—activities that don’t involve staring at a screen all day long. If your teenager is used to spending hours on social media each day, try suggesting alternative activities they might enjoy. Get them to try out for a sport, walk some hiking trails, get a canvas and splash some paint on it to create a piece of art. The important thing is that they get off their phones and explore. Explore their interests, try new things, and do something else that they enjoy that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen all day long.
I know this won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Taking small steps in the right direction will help you develop healthier device habits with your kids. You can do this!