5 Ways to Help Your Teenager Develop Healthy Cell Phone Habits

by ParentCo. February 19, 2017

teenage boy looking at the mobile

Our increasing reliance on cells phones for more than just communication adds an extra layer of complexity in our lives. We struggle to maintain a healthy balance with technology, but what about our teens? They are growing up in an age where overreliance on cell phones for stimulation is a perfectly natural way of life and will never know what it was like before cell phones existed. How can we teach them to have a healthy relationship with such devices? It is our job to pay attention to how our teens are using their devices, monitoring for both content and context. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Talk to them about it

Address their use of their mobile device. See your teen buried in their phone for extended periods of time? Address it – “Hey ______ , what are you working on?” “Let’s not spend all day on your phone.” Talk about the fact that technology is a great tool, but that it often detracts from real-life opportunities and experiences. Teach them about the beauty of conversation, such as the nuances of body language that cannot be expressed via text or email. Explain to them how to limit their exposure to unrealistic messages from social media about having the “perfect body” or “perfect life.” Talk about the value of true downtime, meditation, creativity, and simply giving your brain a break from the constant flow of information. Explain to them how to limit their exposure to unrealistic messages from social media about having the “perfect body” or “perfect life.” Talk about the value of true downtime, meditation, creativity, and simply giving your brain a break from the constant flow of information.

Encourage non-digital activities

Down days are great, we all need them. It is normal for your teen’s first response to want to spend too much time on their phone. It is an easy way to be passively entertained. Offer to do something with your teen to get them re-engaged with the here and now. Bake some cookies, go for a walk, or go to the mall and leave the cell phone behind.suggest a solitary activity, like “Hey, weren’t you reading that book?” “Why don’t you work some more on that awesome drawing.” You will know best what kinds of activities will entice them enough to put down their cell phone. You might also suggest a solitary activity, like “Hey, weren’t you reading that book?” “Why don’t you work some more on that awesome drawing.” You will know best what kinds of activities will entice them enough to put down their cell phone.

Set up tech-free zones

In our house, we only allow our teen to use her cell phone in public areas. That is, no cell phone in her bedroom or downstairs in the basement. The same rule applies for any friends she has over (we’ve gotten our share of eye rolls over this one.) This is important for two reasons:
  1. It limits the amount of time that she can spend on her phone
  2. We are able to keep an eye on how she is utilizing her phone
We also have a rule about not using cell phones during meals. We preserve this time to check in with each other on what is going on with our lives.

People over technology

Cell phones have quite an allure. Social media streams provide an endless supply of entertainment. It is easy to become consumed by it instead of working on true relationships with your family, friends, or anyone you might encounter. Find opportunities to get your child interested in spending time with you. Engage them in conversation. Ask them to put their phone away while you spending time together. In social settings, establish rules for cell phone use. When we have company over we expect our daughter to put her phone away and participate in the conversation. If you want to check in with your friends, please leave the room to do so. Being on your phone in a room full of people is not “spending time together.”

Be a role model

This is the best way to get your teen to improve their technology habits. Teens have a strong“hypocrisy” meter. They will be keeping close tabs on how you interact with your cell phone and using what they see as justification for their own behavior. With the portability of work, people have many reasons to be on their cell phones. Your teen does not necessarily know why you are using your phone because they do not yet have the experience of having a career or work demands. Explain to them what you are doing when you need to quickly reply to an urgent work issue, or check your work schedule for the next day. Be conscious of putting your phone away during family times. Fight the urge to scroll through endless social media updates or play video games whenever there is a free second. Council yourself about what you decide is an appropriate amount of time spent on digital media, and be public about it. This will give your teen real-life examples on how to council himself or herself on finding a more appropriate balance with technology. This will give your teen real-life examples on how to council himself or herself on finding a more appropriate balance with technology. This article was originally published on The Sanity Plan.


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