Technology such as cell phones may have brought many benefits to our modern lives. However, there’s undeniably a risk that with so many electronic devices now readily to hand, and from such a young age, our tweens can develop an unhealthy addiction.
Whilst smartphones and other electronic devices may have been a lifesaver during the pandemic – and when it comes to everyday activities like arranging pick-ups and keeping track of where our tweens are – there can come a point where we see an unhealthy relationship growing.
Excessive phone use can cause a number of health issues from muscle and posture issues, eye strain and headaches through to obesity; your child’s device usage needs to be addressed before it gets out of hand.
What happens when we start to see signs of addiction in our tween? What steps can you take as a parent to ensure smartphones and electronic devices are being used for their correct purpose, rather than becoming your child’s lifeline?
Here we’re gong to look at 5 key tips to keeping your child’s relationship with their phone healthy.
5 Steps to a healthy relationship for tween phone use
1. Set Phone Restrictions
One of the best ways to deal with excessive phone use is to simply restrict it.
This will undoubtedly cause a battle to begin with, but like overcoming any addiction, there will be discomfort before results. You may want to start with a gradual approach if going “cold turkey” will be too uncomfortable for your family, or simply impractical.
You could start with gradual restriction of use. For example, ensure mealtimes are cellphone free, for everyone. As everyone gets used to this, extend this to time limited starts in the morning and a cutoff point in the evening.
An overnight cut off point to ensure they get a good night sleep is a non-negotiable.
There are many good parenting control apps you could use to set these time limits such as Family Link if you’re using an Android device that connects with your Google account, or there are Screen Time settings built in on iOS to manage your child’s device.
2. Set Aside Phone-Free Days
Once your tween starts getting used to restricting their phone use, you can introduce phone-free days. Typically, these should be family days where the focus is on spending time together, so there is a distraction in place and you’re ‘in it together”.
These doesn’t necessarily need to be a full 24-hours, but long enough they get a signifcant screen break and enjoy an activity outside the home. Maybe you can set a rule how long they have to check their phone when they get back home, but whilst your on your family day out nobody checks their device. You might be surprised just how much this benefits you too!
3. Let Them Use Just One Device at a Time
How many times do you catch your tween using more than one screen? One eye glued to their phone while the TV is blaring away, or YouTube playing on their laptop whilst browsing through TikTok?
One screen is bad enough, but when they are using multiple screens at the same time, it’s not only excessive, but unhealthy.
So, if they are doing homework on their laptop, don’t allow them to check their phone. Similarly, if they want to watch a movie, their phone should be tucked away on the charger or in another room.
4. Keep phones out of bedrooms
I am sure it’s not just the kids who are guilty of this! Do you charge your smartphone next to your bed, and use it as your alarm clock?
It’s no surprise our tweens may develop this habit too, checking their phone first before having any human interaction with family.
Set up a charging station in your house where all devices are kept overnight. No one should be touching these then until morning greetings have been made and tasks completed such as getting dressed or having school bags packed.
5. Limit Their Access to Social Media
Whilst this could also lead to many battles and comparison warfare, the reality is most social platforms are simply not intended for the pre-teen age group. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok all have an age limit set of 13 or 13 plus.
That said, I’m sure any tween brought up in the current generation knows how to download and access these. It’s essential when setting up a new device for a tween to set the ground rules on what apps they’ll be allowed to access and when.
If you are making a conscious decision as a parent to allow them to bypass age rules on these platforms and have it on their device, usage needs to be closely monitored or completely restricted.
You can set restrictions on the phone so that certain apps can only be used during specific times of the day, for example.
Getting your tweens to spend less time on their phone and electronic devices these days isn’t easy. However, it is necessary if you want to promote healthy development and habits that they will see into their teenage years.