How to Out Smart Your Kid’s Obsession with Smartphones

“Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future.”  Steve Jobs
Ten years ago Steve Jobs set things in motion when he introduced the iPhone. His goal was to create a device that formed a bond with the user. In his own words, “I want to make a phone people love.”  Soon other tech companies caught on and an explosion of smart devices (phones, tablets, watches) expanded across the globe. Statistics report over 2 billion people now own a smartphone. It is safe to say Steve Jobs achieved his goal to make a dent in the universe.

A Device Obsession

Smart phones and tablets make connecting to a social world virtually effortless. Young and old alike are attached to their devices. For some it’s an obsession. Common Sense Media conducted a poll. Here’s what it found:
  • 50% of teens believe they are addicted to their devices
  • 59% of parents also think their kids are addicted to their devices
[Tweet “Devices that connect to a social universe disconnect us from the people closest to us–our family.”]

The Impact of a Device Obsession on Kids

I recommend every parent watch the movie “Men, Women & Children”. (It’s free on Amazon Video if you are a prime member.) It will give you a sobering look at the impact social media has on family relationships. Here are 5 areas a device obsession negatively impacts your kids.
  1. Impact on family relationships – parents and kids spend less time interacting with each other and increased time interacting with their devices.
  2. Impact on development of social skills – kids rely on their devices to communicate with others. Many lack basic social skills of communication.
  3. Impact on identity development – in a social universe kids are exposed to ideas and trends that influence how they see themselves. Many suffer from low self-esteem.
  4. Impact on social relationships – kids enjoy the ease of making and connecting with friends via social media. Unfortunately, many suffer hardship by the harmful tactics some kids use to “unfriend” or bully others.
  5. Impact on mental health – an increase in depression, anxiety, impulse control and obsessive-compulsive disorders are associated with kids who spend too much time on their devices.

How to Outsmart your kid’s obsession

I see a growing concern among parents about their kids’ obsession with devices. “Her iPhone is attached to her body!” one parent exclaimed. Another parent expressed worry about her teen’s reaction if she tried to set limits. “I’m afraid of the meltdown my kid will have if I take the phone away.” When I was young, kids feared their parents reaction. Today it seems the opposite occurs. I’m calling for a parent revolution. It’s time to get back control over your kids. Every parent can outsmart their kids obsession with smartphones by following 5 action steps.
Step 1 – Before you give a device to your kid establish a purpose and rules.
Internet-based devices are powerful instruments. They connect your kids to a global community. Gone are the days when your kids’ “friends” could only enter through the front door of your home. Now they sneak in the back door social media portals. It is important to establish age-appropriate rules about the purpose and use of devices. Do you give them smartphones because their friends have them? Or do they serve a purpose in your family? Before you distribute the device, establish rules and communicate them to your kids. Be sure you follow through on the rules or you will feed your kid’s obsession!
Step 2 – Schedule “device detox” time in the family.
Establish times during the day when the family goes offline on devices. Three times of the day that make sense.
  1. The morning before going to school.
  2. At dinner time.
  3. At bedtime.
Step 3 – Use the detox time to connect as a family
When devices are off (including TV) you can spend time talking over dinner, playing a board game or in the yard. The kids may grumble and complain initially. If you withstand the resistance they will eventually come to enjoy it.
Step 4 – Establish security controls to monitor device use.
Devices give kids have access to dangerous sites. Parental controls protects them from exposure to harmful material and/or people. Parents often complain that their kids ignore orders to shut off their phones and refuse to hand them over. Now you can restrict your kids from smartphone use without physically taking them away. Apps are available to help you monitor your kid’s access to the internet and to lock their phones remotely if they ignore your calls/texts.
  • Kidtrol child lock app allows you to disable third party apps from your device.
  • Ignore No More is a parent control app that allows you to lock your child’s phone remotely.
Step 5 – Create experiences for your kids to connect organically.
Busy families spend a bulk of time in school and sport activities. Kids spend travel time on their devices. What they often lack is time outdoors enjoying nature. During a “device detox” take your kids outdoors and enjoy nature. This is not a time for Pokemon! Hike forest preserves. Go to a local park. Buy a sled and head for the nearest hill. Create experiences that foster connection with each other in the beauty of nature.

Now it’s your turn

What do you do to outsmart your kid’s use of devices? Share your strategy in the comment section below. If you are currently being outsmarted by your kids, what action step are you prepared to take to get the control back?