How to deal with kids’ smartphone addiction
When it comes to our kids, we all want the best. Especially, we want them to have everything we didn’t have growing up. We all remember the first phone we ever owned, but today’s gadgets are a world away from that memory and their features are addictive. So, the questions arise: is there such a thing as kid’s smartphone addiction & how to fight against it?
Not so Fun Facts
Did you know that the first social media accounts are opened by children at the average age of 11.4 years old? Kids, just like their parents, have jumped on the social media bandwagon, Facebook and Instagram being the most-used social platforms among kids, with 77% using each. Twitter continues to climb with 49% of kids, and a newer entry, Snapchat, with 47%.
Children between ages 8 and 12 spend nearly six hours a day using media, while teens of ages 13 to 18 spend almost nine hours per day. Sounds like a full-time job, right?
Parenting is hard as it is, but the proliferation of smart devices has brought some unique challenges for parents. A Reuters article cites a third of families arguing daily about time spent on devices, we’re sure you know exactly what we are talking about. Parents have even admitted that their kids were texting them while being in the same house.
Even industry giants, like Apple, are now coming under fire for not doing enough to curb childhood addiction to smartphones, so the parents growing concern is spot on: what is too much? At what age should my child receive his first smartphone? What limits to impose and what works best?
Limits for youngsters 0-6 years old
This is a challenge for all parents, especially after seeing the magic effect that a tablet or a phone can have on the little ones, it’s better than any pacifier, and it can give safe passage to do house chores, run errands or even make them eat an entire bowl of food.
We might be jealous on the intuitive approach the little ones have in swiping, and it might be true it can help develop creativity, but specialists recommend that exposure to gadgets should be restrained to educational & recreational purposes only.
This being said, here are some ideas on how to limit & make the best of the use of tech in your family, if you have kids between 0-6 years old:
- Limit to 20 minutes per day
- Review the content before
- Ask for recommendations from other parents
- Keep devices away from children’s bedrooms
Ages 6-12 – time for their first phone?
Opinions are divided and it can turn into a Pandora box, but studies show that the average age for getting the first phone is 10.3 years old.
There are online petitions started by parents that want to wait until the 8th grade before getting their children a phone, while some are concerned with safety and decide to grant kids their own phone earlier.
Whenever you decide to introduce them to their first phone, here are a couple of pointers you should consider:
- Use parental control restrictions from your device – to limit the content your kid can see, apps and purchases
- Keep an eye on their downloads
- Set reasonable rules & expectations – it’s important to make them responsible about using the phone to send check-in texts whenever arriving/departing, to adhere to the “no phones at dinner” house policy, to spend time playing on it only after homework, and so on.
- Start with a flip phone & a talk & text only plan – this way, you can still reach them, but they can focus on their real social life & outdoor activities, without the temptation of always checking their phone or profiles.
Teens ages 12-18
Middle-school and high school are about expressing yourself socially, both online & offline. Add the peer pressure of being the only kid without a phone to this sensitive time, and you’ll get the idea of the ”need” to have a smartphone. We did say smartphone, because at this stage an emergency dumb phone, with no camera or other features, can be quite useless according to teenagers’ standards.
Restrictions can be harder to follow by older teens, yet here are some common sense rules that can but applied:
- Teach using your own example – if you are engaging with your phone more than with your kids, you can’t pretend a different behavior from your children. They’ll see it and take it as a rule. Make your time with the family be as device free as possible.
- Keep track of their usage & apps
- Grounding them from devices – is not a viable solution in every situation, especially if they usually watch educational content, that encourages creativity or mind puzzles. In this case, the allowed screen time may fluctuate. Also, since teens use social media like a newsboard, you are cutting them away from their reality. Adjust the boundaries taking into consideration the social importance of a phone for your teen.
- Encourage extracurricular and outdoor activities they take an interest in
- Create family traditions – taking part in a fun common thing together as quality time where no phones are allowed
Don’t be afraid to take a personal approach, catered to your family, your kid’s age, needs & different situations. Be aware of what’s going on and try to keep yourself up to date and informed about new technologies, apps & trends.
Talk to your kids about their phone and can they do with it. Pick a phone plan that best suits your children’s different wishes and your own. Tello can certainly help with that since you can custom build your kid’s phone plan, start with talk & text, and add extra data if you want.