With today’s youth growing up with easy access to smartphones, the instant accessibility of messaging, social media, games and other distractions is always one finger click away. Popularity is now measured in likes, comments and friend requests, and the ding from a new text or an alert from social media creates instant gratification for peer approval and acceptance.
Yet, it’s the tantalizing lure of connectivity—the online social world, the updates, the apps and the powerful feelings of happiness associated with the device—that lulls teens into an almost dependence or addiction. Social media and virtual communication can make and break reputations. Both good and bad images can go viral, and the attention a teen receives from the wired social world also can inflate or implode their self-esteem. The phone that once served as a means of communication has evolved into a digitized nightmare.
Parents are witnessing firsthand the ramifications of smartphone addiction, and the issue has become so widespread that treatment programs have been developed to help addicts. Just how many teens can’t put that device down? CNN reports that a poll conducted by Common Sense Media found that half of teens believe they suffer from cell phone addiction.
However, parents can take steps to help kids and teens become less reliant on their phones and help them retreat from a virtual-focused existence. All hope is not lost, and while smartphone addiction is a scary trend, parents can still win the battle…and stop trouble before it begins.
Cell Phone Contracts
Every teen or tween with a cell phone should have a cell phone contract. This outlines the rules and regulations of cell phone use and ownership. Parents can include cell phone downtime in this contract that stipulates when and where cell phone use is prohibited. Rules concerning online behavior, image sharing, and app limitations also should be included. If any rules are violated, consequences should be detailed within a contract. And, of course, the contract also should note who pays for broken, lost or stolen phones.
Teens, ideally, should have a well-rounded routine. In other words, teens and tweens need to have other scheduled activities that help contain and restrict cell phone obsession. Sports, after-school clubs, scouts or other activities provide a social network and help kids gain a world outside of their devices.
Physical Activity is a Must
Everyone needs physical activity. For teens—and kids—the Centers for Disease Control recommends an hour of activity every day. While plucking teens off the couch may be a challenge, try to get them to head outdoors…and, better yet, get out together as a family. Go running, take a walk with the family dog (just know that different dog breeds have unique activity needs), opt for a bike ride around the neighborhood (always wear a helmet!) or join a local fitness center. Get creative, but get them off the phone and moving!
Talk to kids and teens and stay up to date on their life. They might not share much, but always leave the door open and insist on having time together to share and talk as a family. Game nights also make fun family traditions that keep family time face-to-face.
Set a Good Example
If parents are always on their cell phones, teens and younger kids will think constant use is allowed and acceptable. Limit your own digital intake, and put the phone down in favor of a book or other activities.
While smartphone addiction is on the rise, parents can take the lead to ensure their kids don’t fall victim to the pull of the digital device. Set rules, insist on a cell phone contract and spend time together as a family…most importantly, though, keep kids involved in clubs, sports or other activities that help take their time away from that ever-beckoning phone!