Teens and kids are complaining about their parents, especially when they get called out for their own digital behavior. Their prevalent gripe, “You pay more attention to your phone than me.” Parents’ screen time could be the culprit behind kids’ questionable digital citizenship. Are we modeling bad behavior? Time to check our log-ins.
“Parent modeling is one of the most powerful tools for helping children learn how to manage their device use in safe and healthy ways,” Dr. Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D., CNS, a holistic child psychologist based in Caledonia, Michigan tells Parentology, “as it’s important for children to see that parents prioritize time daily without devices, put them away during meals or conversations.”
How important? Common Sense Media compiled information to see how irritation over phone use stacked up between parents and kids. What they found – numbers are rising when it comes to kids wanting their parents’ attention directed at them versus their phones. Currently, 39% are vying for one-on-one time, versus 28% in 2016. As for phones serving as a distraction, in 2019, 44% of teens proclaim yes to that question versus 19% in 2016.
So how do parents approach this growing problem? After all, the same statistics point to self-awareness – 45% of parents feel addicted to their phones. Perhaps following Beurkens’ guidelines for setting screen time rules for kids can apply to both generations.
“Prioritizing time spent on other activities (playing with toys, engaging in physical activity, or doing chores and homework) before device use is another important strategy for helping kids develop healthy ways of thinking about how tech fits into their lives,” she advises. “Having a way to set limits on time spent and content consumed is also critical, and these boundaries should shift over time as children get older and demonstrate increased ability to make responsible choices.”
Feeling the need to check your progress? Beurkens, a paid advisor and psychologist ambassador to the app Qustodio turns to, well, her phone to track screen time. “It allows parents to easily set time and content limits, and these can be quickly changed as needed. The ability to see websites visited and content consumed also allows parents to engage in important conversations with their children about what they are being exposed to online, how to handle peer issues on social media, and more.”
Many cell phones, the iPhone among them, are happily letting users know just how much screen time they’re using each day. Though, perhaps, instead of checking usage time, the family might put their phones away in a designated No Phone Zone and, yes, engage in a conversation.