It can drive any parent crazy to see their teen disengaged from the world around them because they only seem to care about the glowing screen in front of them. You’ve tried everything to help them get off their phones and branch out, but nothing sticks. Fear not! We have 7 great tips to help you influence your teen’s screen time for the better.
No Screens at Bedtime
Our first tip has to do with controlling screen time around bedtime. When your teens are on their screens late at night, it can really affect their quality of sleep and could lead them to waste hours of valuable rest time on the internet, playing games, or watching movies. Our suggestion is to make the bedroom an electronics-free zone after a certain hour, say 9:00 pm. This gives your teen an hour to unwind from their stimulating devices before a supposed 10:00 pm bedtime. To keep the electronics out of the bedroom, try asking your teen to move their chargers to the kitchen or other communal room so when they plug in their devices for the night, they are at least a few rooms away from the bed.
There are a variety of apps and settings on smartphones, laptops, and game consoles that you can take advantage of to reduce screen time. For example, you can use an app that has a maximum amount of hours allowed on any certain device or app. By setting a limit, your teen will have to learn how to manage their screen time wisely before they get locked out. You can also restrict access to certain websites or features until the weekend to make sure your teen isn’t tempted to waste their school days or workdays glued to the screen. This is much better than taking away the phone entirely as they learn to manage their phone usage instead of dying to get it back and using it just as frequent when it’s returned.
No Phones at The Table
A great rule to adopt in your family is for everyone to agree to keep their phones away during meals. Sharing a meal together is a great bonding opportunity as it allows the family to connect and have a good time without other distractions. Screens can be a major distraction that prevents quality conversations from taking place, so we recommend that everyone in the family vow to keep their phones off the table whenever they eat. If you’re looking for a way to impact your teen during family time, you might consider these inspirational talking points.
No Phones in The Car
Like avoiding screen time at the table, you might want to make a rule to keep phones out of the car. Driving around with your teen is another great way to find time to connect and reflect, but so often teens treat the downtime of being driven around to zone out on their phones. Try making a rule that no one can use their phone in the car because it prevents distracted driving as well as encourages more conversations. Your teen might be in the car for over an hour per day depending on your schedule, and that’s a whole hour you can get back from the screen time void.
Encourage Outdoor Exercises
It’s much more difficult to be on your phone or laptop when you’re out and about in nature, so we recommend finding more opportunities to get outside. You might consider making time every week to exercise with your family at the park, the gym, or the swimming pool. If your teen is resistant to working out with the family, try going on a nature hike or heading to the beach. These activities are a lot of fun, so your teen might not even realize that they are sacrificing screen time. Building a habit of being outdoors might also encourage your teen to leave the electronics out of the picture more often.
Losing Screen Time for Violating Rules
You could also use parental control apps as a way of enforcing consequences that result in less screen time. If your teen doesn’t follow the rules of no phones at the table, or no electronics in bed, you can take away screen time as a natural consequence. You could say, “You were using the family time for your screen, so it’s natural that you have one less hour of screen time you can use tomorrow.” To reiterate a previous point, it’s better for your teen to learn how to manage their screen time and deal with the consequences of losing a few hours of allotted time than to take away the phone altogether.
Shut Down Wi-Fi
Our final tip is to shut down your home Wi-Fi for certain hours of the day. If you prevent Wi-Fi access from being a constant resource in your house, it might break some of the impulsive habits your teenager has such as checking the social media accounts every 20 minutes. If you only turn on the internet for 2 hours per day, your teen with cherish that time and probably use it to the fullest, but they will have to come up with other ways to spend their time when the Wi-Fi is switched off. Perhaps they use that time to focus on homework or hang out with friends instead.
Your teen could use wireless data as a substitute for Wi-Fi. In this case, you can put a limit on the amount of data they can use with your wireless provider and make them pay for any overuse charges to curb their habit.
You’re on Your Way to Being More Screen-Free
It’s no secret that we are becoming more attached to our devices as a society, and teenagers are especially susceptible to having large screen times as a result of all social pressure to be online all the time. You can use these tips to help reduce screen time in your teen’s life so they can be healthier and happier. We don’t recommend that you try to cut out screens altogether, but there’s nothing wrong with cutting back and making more time for non-screen activities.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.