We’ve all seen it from the dining tables to lounge rooms, to restaurants. Meal and family times are supposed to be reserved for spending time and bonding together as a family. Teenagers don’t quite get it when there’s someone more interesting on the other end of the computer or their phone to chat with. These habits can lead to adulthood too. Remember that one colleague who cannot put their phone down in a meeting? Here are eight simple changes you can make to your lifestyle to cure teenagers of their screen-addled addiction.
Set boundaries early
There is a new generation of babies and toddlers using fun and educational apps on iPads and smartphones. These kids are going to grow up into screen-addicted teenagers without some early intervention.
For kids that are still in prams, you can even intervene early here. Instead of giving them an iPad to play on while in their pram, why not invest in a durable jogging pram. The entertainment of the world rushing by them while you’re out jogging is a great way to keep their little fingers off glass LED-lit screens.
Enforce a “no screen time” policy
Many parents are finding help from a simple fruit bowl placed strategically out of sight. When meal and family times come around, all phones go into the bowl. To get the best results from this, parents need to set boundaries on themselves as well and put their phones in the bowl. It can’t be one rule for them and another for the teens – teens today just won’t wear such inequality.
Encourage exercise and outdoors
When you go camping, you often cannot use your technology because there is no reception. While going camping every weekend might be a dream of some, it isn’t practical. However, you can help break that screen-addiction using your own backyard. It would be a pretty amazing achievement if your teen was able to jump up and down on a trampoline while texting at the same time. A trampoline is a great way to keep them fit and healthy too.
Control your use of technology around the teenagers
Have you ever stopped to consider how much you might be using your smartphone in front of your kids? Maybe they want to engage with you, but they see you so enthralled on your phone, there’s a very little point in striking up a conversation. The same goes for watching television. If your unpredictable teenagers have made the time to sit with you in the lounge room, turn the television off and engage them in conversation. You might get a big surprise.
You pay for the internet. You can take it away
The one thing that infuriates teenagers more than having to sit and chat to that one Aunt they cannot stand is having to use their own data. If they can get away with using the Wifi internet you pay for all of the time, they certainly will. One easy way to fix that simply switches your Wifi modem off at important times of the day. They’ll soon learn that in order to feed their screen-addiction, they’ll need to pay for their own Internet.
Build a consensus with other parents you know
There’s always more power in numbers. You will not be the only parent dealing with this terrible screen-addiction epidemic that has swept the current crop of teenagers. Start building a coalition with parents you know and help each other come up with joint-strategies to combat it.
Teenagers always try to make the point that their friends are allowed to do something you’re trying to prevent. This argument will soon hold no water if their parents are all in on this coalition against the screens.
The carrot and stick approach
Teenagers are just like the rest of us – we respond to incentives. Reward your teenager in some way for accepting your new “no-screen” policy. That doesn’t mean go and upgrade their iPhone, that’ll just make the situation worse.
It might be as simple as putting their favorite dessert on the evening’s menu or offering to take them and their friends to see their favorite team at the next AFL game. Equally, the policy must be respected and ignoring the policy would be grounds to take a privilege away from them up to and including the offending device itself.
If you cannot beat them, join them
This is more of a fun one. If you’re still not getting any progress in getting your teenager to put their phone or tablet down and re-join the family, then there’s only one weapon you have left. Your phone. Text them, Facebook message them, call them. Nothing is more annoying for a teenager than when they are trying to have a conversation with a friend on their device and their annoying parent is constantly bombarding them with message requests. They’ll soon give up and put the offending device away.
Julia Hammond is a Melbourne-based freelance writer who has worked with major brands and blogs from The Urban List to MyDeal.com.au. You can find her online at LeftHandScribbler.com.