Your Teens May Want Help Curbing Their Smartphone Use

by Anna Hughes on August 1, 2018
A smartphone can be a useful tool for anybody, even teens. Smartphones can help them get jobs, stay in touch with friends who move away, and can help them with their schoolwork. But they can also trigger reward systems seated deep in the brain that we don't fully understand, and start cycles it can be difficult to break. When we first encounter these cycles, sometimes called “smartphone addiction,” we need help, and teens need it in particular, since they're fighting it for the first time. So how can you help?
Group of people using smartphones.

Teens love their phones, but they might need help putting them down.

Stop It Before It Happens

The simplest method is, especially if your teen is about to get their first smartphone, just to stop the problem before it starts. Use tools like Android and iPhone parental controls to block certain apps, set specific rules about when the phone can be used and for what purposes, and have clear and fair punishments in place when those rules are violated that you can enforce, like deleting apps and no phone at bedtime.

Have An Honest Talk

The first step is to give your teen some perspective. For example, if they’re checking an app or playing a game to the point it interferes with their homework, their job, and their social life, you should ask them about why this is. One important discussion to have is about the “Skinner box,” the infamous psychological experiment where a rat was put in a cage with a button that occasionally dispensed a treat, and which taught the rat to keep hitting the button, to the detriment of everything else.

Some argue certain apps are like these boxes, and while the science is more complicated with the human mind, it’s not a bad analogy. Social media and games offer us a small reward, such as a like or a powerup, and we keep playing. Once we become aware of the cycle, we can fight it.

Young teen looking at her tablet while leaning against fence.

Phones are useful, but they can also be addictive.

Make A Plan

Once your teen can face the problem, you can make a plan to solve it. This should involve a mix of parental control software, scheduling, and self-awareness. For example, if one app like Snapchat is the problem, you might delete the app, set a rule about when phones are allowed at home, giving your teen a little time to do work, answer emails, and so on, and then have a strict block on having a phone in bed. To enforce the rule, you might install an app to block the downloading of other apps, or certain apps, without your express consent via software.

Ideally, your teen will be on board with this plan. But if not, they should at least understand the reasoning behind it. A conversation about the problem is part of the solution, in this case.

While parental control software and Android and iPhone parental controls are incredibly useful tools, the key to stopping smartphone problems is to get your teen to admit there’s a problem in the first place. Once that happens, you can begin truly fixing the problem. To learn more about how to schedule phone time and enforce the house rules about phones, try it for free.

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Your Teens May Want Help Curbing Their Smartphone Use
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Your Teens May Want Help Curbing Their Smartphone Use
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Your teen wants your help to stop smartphone addiction. Here's how.
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