Screen Time and Teens – When is Enough?

download-1The topic of teens, their phones and screen time usage comes up a lot.  So, I decided to post a few suggestions for those parents who are trying to figure out the ground rules.  

The phone, in some ways, has replaced the TV of the 70’s & 80’s.  That was a time when kids could sit in front of a TV and watch for hours, like wide eyes zombie. Dreading when mom would say the words  “That’s enough TV… shut it off and go outside!”  We would die a little inside and yell back “But mom…this is my favorite show!!” However, once outside and away from the TV, you would strangely feel better. Like some invisible chain was broken.

Now that the phone can be used to stream Netflix, Youtube and other videos, I think parents should treat the phone similar to the TV and ask themselves: “What are the rules of TV watching in our house?” and use that as a reference point.

The next thing that comes to mind is… “Who bought the phone?” If mom or dad bought the phone, it’s important to put the rules, limits and expectations out there regarding phone usage from the beginning.  I cannot stress this enough. Otherwise, it ends up like a runaway train.

If a parent is considering buying their child a phone, think about the following before making the purchase.

1) Who pays for the phone and the service?  Whoever pays for it, set’s the rule. Be clear with your child. 

2) Why do they need the phone? Think this through. Can they only use it for Emergencies? Does your family have a crazy schedule and it helps keep everyone organized?  Or, are you feeling pressured (by your child) to JUST buy a phone.

3) What are the rules around phone usage? In other words, when can they use the phone? After homework is finished, a few hours before bed, or weekends only?  Again, be clear.

For those parents who have already bought a phone for their teen, it can be hard to rewind and set some rules after the fact, but try.  I suggest slowly weening them off the phone to a structured period of time that you are comfortable with.  Maybe start with no phone during dinner, then moving to…no phone after 8pm on a school night.  OR, what about having it charge in a central location (out of her room) at night? Then s/he get’s it back once they comes down for breakfast in the am.  Also, take a look at your own phone usage and let that be an example for them.

downloadLastly, regardless of your age, it’s not good to constantly stare at a phone screen. The screen is small, fonts are small, and it can be bad on your eyes with prolonged use.  We could all probably benefit from a little less time with our phones.

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