Me First, Me Last, Me Always
Part of the problem is teens and kids are just naturally more prone to smartphone addiction. At their worst, smartphones are designed to relentlessly demand our attention with alerts, texts, calls, notifications and hosts of other ways to pull you away from whatever you’re doing in the real world and go back to the phone. Device use is particularly tempting in awkward social situations, and we can all agree that being a teen means encountering plenty of those.
The problem, of course, is over time, humans may become less interesting to kids than the various pings and dings a smartphone offers up. It’s a question of punching through the world that smartphones present, and getting your teens to consider their actions in a broader context. Or, of course, keep device dependency from happening in the first place.
Popping The Bubble
Parental control software is a common way to keep the “self-centered” bubble from forming. Strictly limiting what apps kids can use and when they can use them will address the problem from one direction.
In addition, teach your kids, or have them teach you, how to go into an app or a settings menu and shut off unnecessary notifications, such as game alerts and “reminder” notifications from social media networks that want your time. Explain to them why these apps do this, namely to get your attention so you’ll look at ads. The good thing about these forms of manipulation is that once you’re aware of them, you can push them away easily.
Similarly, when you install parental control software, your kids should understand both why you have installed it, and the rules around the software. Rules like “no phones after bedtime” or “phones for homework use only after school” shouldn’t just be coded into the phone, but clearly articulated for your kids, with punishments made clear if they break the rules.
And remember, finally, that not all apps and games are bad. Some games are designed to bring groups of friends together in real life, such as Pokemon Go, while other apps allow kids to discuss their social situations with friends in a healthy way. You should talk with your kids about how they use their phones and who they’re interacting with. If the rules are clear and you’re involved, then you’re setting them on the right track to a healthy online/offline balance. To learn more about parental control and software that supports it, check out the Screen Time app.