Reality Check: Parents Need to Monitor Their Own Phone Usage

by Anna Hughes on 12/09/2018
“Do as I say, not as I do,” has long been a point of contention between parents and their children. But there's nowhere it's more vividly drawn than when it comes to phone usage, which even schools have stopped trying to totally control. Parents are concerned about their kids' phone use, and can use parental control software to limit calls, stop apps, or even lock the phone except for emergency calls during certain times of day. But what should parents do when their kids point out they've banned phones at the table, but they “just have to take this call?”
Man working on a laptop while using his phone.

Kids learn from the example set by their parents.

Setting An Example

The truth is that kids get most of their tools for viewing the world and handling its challenges from their parents. Parents are simply the adults kids see the most, and that makes leading by example key to good parenting.

But by the same token, parents can feel the world is conspiring against good parenting, particularly in the realm of smartphone usage. Smartphones have made us more productive and given us more tools, but it also means our bosses can send us emails at dinner time or clients dial our personal numbers at any time of the day. That leaves many busy parents stuck between the rock of setting a good example for kids and the hard place of the necessities of their job and their lives. How do we balance the two?

Two teenage girls using their phones.

Phones shouldn’t be crutches, for us or for our kids.

Balancing Phone Use, Parenting, And Life

  • First, listen to your kids. Nobody is equipped with perfect introspection and your kids may be pointing out you have an unhealthy relationship with your smartphone too.
  • Ask yourself what your needs are with your smartphone, versus your wants. Does your coworker really need that email returned? Does that call need to be answered? What are the expectations you have for yourself at work and at home, versus what the real expectations should be? If a call or an email comes in, and it doesn’t fall into the realm of need, leave it for later.
  • Sit down with your kids and discuss how you use your smartphone and what your personal boundaries are. If you have to take a call at the dinner table, for example, and your kids object, lay out why this was a need in your career, and apologize for having to cross that boundary. Ideally your whole family will be on the same page, at least in terms of understanding the difference between “want” and “need.”
  • Avoid arguments like “I’m putting food on the table and you’re just playing a game.” Kids simply don’t have the perspective adults do; unless you have an incredibly industrious teenager, it’s unlikely they’re getting work calls at the dinner table or understand deadlines and work stress just yet. Instead, couch it in terms they understand, like homework or schoolwork.
  • The justifications behind the rules should be clear to your kids. While kids may not understand adult life, they do understand arbitrary enforcement of the rules, and if they understand the reason behind those rules, they’re more likely to abide by them.

Putting parental control software on your children’s phones is half the battle. The other half is getting them to understand why you did it. To learn more about control apps and other ways to help your kids manage their smartphone use, contact us.

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Reality Check: Parents Need to Monitor Their Own Phone Usage
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Reality Check: Parents Need to Monitor Their Own Phone Usage
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Parents need to look at their own phone habits, too.
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