In world where most of us are glued to or phones, consider these five tips to help your child develop healthy phone use.
Sponsored by Viewpoint Psychology and Wellness
How do you limit smart phone and technology use in a world where phones are all-encompassing?
“In our generation, phones were a means for conversation, to make plans or to talk to another person,” says Dr. Melanie Schwartz, licensed psychologist and owner of Viewpoint Psychology and Wellness. “This generation doesn’t have the same understanding. This is why it’s more important than ever for parents to set boundaries and guidelines for healthy smartphone use.”
Schwartz has this advice to help your family develop healthy phone use:
1. Weigh the benefits and consequences for your family
Talk to your children about your expectations of them. Setting boundaries is part of healthy parenting, and parents should be prepared to set boundaries at every age.
“I often spend time discussing with families what a healthy amount of time with the phone could be,” Schwartz says. “This will be different in every family, but it’s important to set that ideal time for your children, and then stick to it.”
2. Don’t start too young
Although every family is different, Schwartz finds that most children are not physically or emotionally responsible enough for a phone prior to middle school.
“Every family has different circumstances and every child is different,” Schwartz says. “Some children will be ready for a phone prior to middle school and some might need to wait. Your family may decide cell phones are needed sooner to assist with communication after a divorce or with working parents. Evaluating all of this will help you know what’s right for your family and your child.”
The most important thing, Schwartz finds, is that parents should look at the needs and not just the wants of giving a child a phone. Is it needed because of a family situation? Are parents willing to monitor the phone weekly or daily? These are just a couple questions to ask when making the decision to get your child’s first phone.
3. Set guidelines and monitor
“In our office, we are seeing psychological issues caused by children being exposed to information earlier than they are ready to process due to technology,” Schwartz says. “The only way to help relieve this is for parents to keep a close eye on the phone and what is being used on it.”
In addition to daily and weekly monitoring, parents can set up controls and alerts through their provider to limit internet usage. Additionally, requiring children to turn in their phones at the end of the allotted daily use time allows parents to know exactly when they are being used and to review content each night.
4. Get the “dumb” phone.
Although your children may tell you otherwise, phones are meant to communicate. If a phone is needed for them to check in after school or in case of emergencies, the “dumb” phone will suffice.
They will be able to text and call without the never-ending access to information and communication available via a smartphone. Remember, without smartphones and 24/7 access, children didn’t have to worry about cyber bullying or device addiction. Your guidance as a parent will ultimately keep your children safe.
5. Set the example
The best way to help limit a child’s phone use is to set the example for them that the people in the room come first.
“If your children see you constantly on your phone, they will want to be, too,” Schwartz says. “Set limits for yourself first and let your children see you follow them. Putting your phone away during family time not only helps them see you following the house rules, it also shows them that you put them first.”
The clinicians at Viewpoint Psychology and Wellness daily see the negative effects of phone use at younger ages in their clients. Because children no longer need to wait for information, games or communication, they are not developing patience.
“Technology in general has created a lack of frustration tolerance in children,” Schwartz says. “This lack of frustration tolerance and phone addiction are both creating depression and anxiety in younger children. Additionally, all the social media concerns parents are hearing about go along with smartphone use. Depression, low self-esteem and anxiety are often linked to teens feeling disrespected or left out online.”
Regardless of what a parent chooses for their child, the team of experts at Viewpoint is available to help navigate the boundaries and communication techniques needed for healthy phone use.
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