Digital Detox Part II: Getting Your Kids Off Their Phones by Emily Hasselquist, LCSW

Children are becoming experts on technology younger than ever before.  It’s not uncommon to see toddlers entertained with iPads, elementary school children with cell phones and middle school kids on social media. If you have a teenager, you’re well aware that their entire life seems to revolve around their phone.  Social media has replaced in-person interactions which makes us question whether or not our children’s social skills are suffering.  Cyber bullying is far too common as kids feel a level of anonymity on the internet.  Many children and teenagers are unfortunately learning the hard way that what they type or post is forever.  Below are 3 things to consider when exploring how to get your kids off their phones.

  1. Phones are a privilege, not a right.  While your child may boast that everyone in their class has a phone, there should be no pressure to get them one.  Having a cell phone is a privilege that is earned, and can also be taken away at any point.  Some parents may not provide that day’s wifi password until chores are complete.  Or only allow the phone to be used once all homework has been completed. Grades dropping? Take the phone away until they come up.   
  2. Plan tech free activities. If you are spending time as a family, set the expectation that phones are off limits.  This includes everyone.  Attending a sporting event or going out to dinner does not require cell phones.  Teach your child that if they’re too focused on the world they see through their phones, they make actually miss out on enjoying the world around them.
  3. Set limits. Parents have every right to limit the use of electronics.  There are many parental controls put in place by cell phone providers or programs that allow you to set what hours your child can use their phone, limit which apps are downloaded, monitor internet activity, and access who your child is communicating with.  While they may argue that you’re not allowing them privacy, consider an agreement that you’ll only access this information if you have a reason.  

Not all technology is bad though when it comes to your kids.  Some parents find a sense of relief knowing their children can access them immediately if there were to be an emergency.  Setting up location services on your child’s phone can keep you informed of their whereabouts. Assistive technology for children with disabilities, homework help websites, and apps designed to teach kids coping skills are just a few examples of the ways technology can support positive child development.  It is also common for teachers and schools to rely on different websites, apps and email to communicate information and enhance learning.   Cell phones can be a valuable tool in your child’s life, but it’s up to the parents to teach responsible use.

If you are concerned about your child’s dependence on electronics, the staff at Gurnee Counseling Center can help.  Contact us at (847) 336-5621 for more information.