Mom and daughter sitting on a couch appearing calm.

A Two-Way Street: Kids Notice Their Parents’ Phone Habits Too

by Screen Time Team on 22/01/2020

Every parent has had that awkward moment where the kids imitate something they say or do without understanding the context, like a word blurted out in a moment of temper. Children tend to follow the cues of their parents in what they do, behavior that can endure for far longer than either side realizes. This makes parents “walking the walk” a fundamental part of helping their kids develop better phone habits.

Do As I Say…

To be fair, many adults are fully aware that they spend too much time on their phones. One survey found that a bare majority of parents felt they could leave the smartphone in the drawer most often. Yet that creates a real problem when talking with kids about their phone use.

The problem is most visible to kids as they get older and their attitude towards their phones changes. Teenagers, in particular, are more likely to use a smartphone as a tool, much the same as an adult, and will have pointed questions about commonplace misuses of smartphones.

But younger kids can pick up habits, good and bad, just by watching. Keep in mind, your children will spend time with you every day from birth. They’re going to have a good sense of how you use, or misuse, everything around you. This makes good phone habits important right from the start.

Child yelling at mom while she is looking at her parental control app on her phone.

Setting An Example

Before you set any family rules, start by examining your own behavior. Very few of us do anything outright dangerous, like text while driving, yet you may be surprised by how often you can drift into staring at a screen. Using a time tracking app, for example, can tell you how much time you spend on social media.

It’s also important to sort “screen time” from “usage.” If your phone is sending a podcast to your car stereo or you’re getting walking directions, that’s different from endlessly scrolling through social media. Ask yourself what uses the rest of the family may put the phone to, and sort that from the screen overuse you’re worried about.

Next, consider how rules you’re considering will apply to the entire family, not just your kids. If you want kids to stop using their phones at bedtime, can you implement a rule where everybody charges their phones in the living room, for example?

Finally, have logic behind the rules. We’ve all run into what appears to be an arbitrary rule and found it a frustrating experience. Kids are no different, and being able to explain to them why you’re concerned about this use of the phone but not that one can be useful for ensuring everyone’s on the same page. It also sets up a framework to request changes to the rules.

Part of that should be a third-party parental control app. Even the best kids will, at some point, push the boundaries of the rules. A third-party app will give you the control you need to keep malware and socially toxic apps off phones and enforce the rules, while also giving you the flexibility to grow with your kids. To learn more, sign up today!

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