How to Curb Your Kid’s Smartphone Use

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Teen using smartphones and other tech devices

The typical child spends over 7 hours a day looking at a screen—mainly a smartphone—which can affect their social, mental and academic development.

Smartphones are one of the biggest electronic enablers, allowing teens to take a screen with them wherever they go. Before school starts, have a conversation with your child about appropriate smartphone use.

Don’t just lay down the law—have an open dialogue in which you work together to lay out the rules for smartphone use during different parts of the school week.

Can your child take their phone to school? Should the phone be on or off? When is it acceptable for them to be on Snapchat? YouTube? What is the protocol for smartphone use at the dinner table?

If you’re not sure where to start the conversation, we’ve broken down some key areas of smartphone use that should be covered in a kid-friendly smartphone contract:

Set Smartphone Boundaries

Back to school is a busy season, with shopping for school supplies and adjusting to a new schedule, but it’s also a crucial time to take look at your child’s smartphone use, to evaluate and establish proper smartphone etiquette.

Write the rules down on a piece of paper to make sure you both clearly understand and agree to them. The paper should include the consequences of breaking any rules, as well as rewards for adhering to them. You can even have them sign it—just like a contract.

With a smartphone contract, you can ensure that your child understands when they should use their smartphone. With TeenSafe, you can ensure those rules are being followed. The TeenSafe app gives you the tools to help your child stay focused on what’s important so they can have a successful school year.

At School

If you want your child to take their smartphone to school so you can be in contact with them directly, decide how the phone should be used. Do they turn it off or on airplane mode during class? Do they leave it in their locker?

Negotiate the best way to balance having a phone on hand, and not having it interrupt their education. Consider your own role in their smartphone use. You can make a rule that you will only contact them during the lunch hour, so they won’t have an excuse to have their phone out during class.

Once the school day is over, the rules should be less strict, so your child can communicate with you freely about extracurricular activities and transportation.

Homework

The internet is an amazing tool to help children study, but when the internet is combined with social media and texts, it’s a recipe for distraction. If a child doesn’t need a smartphone for research, it should be put in an entirely different room while they study.

If they do need it for research, you can use TeenSafe’s Pause button to halt social media and texting activity, and monitor their browser history to make sure they stick to academic sites only.

At Night

Children should NEVER have their phone in their room overnight. Having a smartphone in the bedroom can majorly impact sleep. The artificial light of screens can make it hard to fall asleep, and up to 21% of high schoolers admit to waking up if they receive a text message in the middle of the night. Sleep deprivation can impair attention, decision-making and memory, all of which impact academic performance.

That’s why you shouldn’t let your child use their phone as an alarm clock. Instead, have a “charging station” in a central location in the home—such as the living room or kitchen—and make sure all phones remain there at night.

On the Weekends

To keep things consistent, the majority of rules that apply during the week should apply on the weekends. This is especially true when it comes to weekend nights, to ensure your teen is consistently getting enough sleep.

To balance your child’s online and offline life, aim to do at least one family “phone free” activity every weekend, whether that’s going for a walk or hike, playing sports or cards. The more time you can spend outdoors, the better!

While Driving

Do not get tired of telling to your teen that they should NEVER check their smartphone while driving.

Even just a quick look to check text messages or social media could result in terrible consequences. TeenSafe’s Pause button can also be used in this situation to make sure all of your teens’ apps are off while they are driving. Keeping your teen safe while driving is worth the effort!

TeenSafe is a financial sponsor of National PTA and has been invited to submit an article as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

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