How often are you nagging your teen to “put the stupid phone away” or “stop playing so many video games!” or “can’t you limit your screen time?”? For most parents, it’s quite often. It can be a daily or even hourly struggle. Teens are using technology more than ever before and the amount of screen time they’re logging each day is significant. Of course, it’s not all bad! But it can become a huge problem for teens and their families if moderation isn’t utilized. And we’re not just talking about the teens.
How much are YOU on your phone? Yes, you! Parents are on their phones, computers, and tablets more now than any generation before, as well. Between work, monitoring children, community obligations, and the necessary unwinding and personal time you are definitely on your screens a lot. And it’s ok – but your teens notice. You are responsible for setting the tone and rules for your family, so be sure to make the effort to focus on family first. Here are a few ways you can put down the phone and focus on the ones who matter most:
3 Ways to Focus on Family – Not Your Phone
Technology-Free Dinner Time. This one is pretty common and straightforward, but sometimes difficult to enforce. Set the rule and lead by example that the family prepares dinner together – such as setting the table, chopping vegetables, making the dishes, and fetching tools. Then the technology-free time should be centered on family discussion and quality time as you all eat dinner together. Finally, extend the technology-free time a little past dinner for clean up, washing dishes, and maybe dessert. Try not to be judgmental if everyone rushes off to their screens after.
Use Shared Commute Time. Often parents try to use commute times to make phone calls or let the music blast louder than conversation can be. Certainly you’re very busy, or your teens seem happier listening to the radio at full volume, but the time in the car is a critical opportunity for discussion and focused attention. It may be awkward at first, but resist the urge to make phone calls, tinker with playlists, or ignore your kids wearing headphones and talk to them instead! This can be especially helpful with troubled teens who may need extra communication time or increased help.
Set it Down at Any Interruption. Has your child ever come to you in need but you couldn’t tear your eyes away? Well, you probably wouldn’t know if it HAD happened, would you? It’s difficult when you’re engrossed in a complicated work email or on the phone with a dramatic PTA representative, but try to make an effort to set down your phone, close the laptop, or otherwise drop your technology whenever your kid needs something. Sure, it can seem like you’re their slave sometimes, but you also don’t want to risk sending the message that your technology use is more important than your child.
You will never regret the extra effort to focus on your family or to connect with your child, especially if you’re struggling with a troubled teen. Begin with increased attention, and don’t be afraid to ask for further help if you and your teen need it. It’s well worth it.