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Digital Parenting: Help Your Family Spend Less Time on Their Phone

November 29, 2013 at 12:38 PM

cell phoneThe smart phone is a great tool for families. It allows you to remain in constant contact with your kids wherever they are, meaning you never have to worry about where they could be if they are late for dinner – you can simply send them a text, or vice versa. It’s also a great tool for allowing them to keep in better touch with their family, from uncles and aunts to their cousins. Of course, there are drawbacks to smart phones as well.

Kids especially tend to be drawn to the quick fix entertainment that smart phones offer, from access to the Internet to the many games and apps that are available for download. This can lead to your family being glued to their smart phone screens instead of interacting with their family at home. The following are a few tips that you as a digital parent can use to help your family spend less time on their phones and more time with the family at home:

  • No phones at the table – Make an effort to have meals together as a family, even if it is just for dinner. However, never allow your kids or anyone else to bring their phones to the table. Provide a designated place in view of the table where all phones must be placed before sitting down. This applies to you too; after all, you have to set an example. Not having their phones available to them at the table means that they won’t spend the entire meal looking down at their laps. It’ll be much easier to have a family conversation. Enforce this rule even if you are not having a meal as a family. This means that if someone wants to grab a quick bite to eat, they need to put their phone away.  This will allow your kids to get used to sitting at the table without a phone, helping to take away some of their dependency. It will also teach them important table manners.

  • Create a phone-free day – Designate one day out of the week when no one can use their phones. The best day for this would be either Saturday or Sunday. You don’t necessarily have to make the day a family activity day, although doing something as a family is a great way to spend the day. Even if you haven’t planned a family day, having a phone-free day will force you and your kids to find other ways to entertain yourselves, such as by playing board games or going outside. Obviously, you can’t forbid the use of phones especially if there is an emergency. In addition to answering all calls that come in, maybe provide a couple of breaks throughout the day when everyone can check their texts. 

  • No phones after a certain time – A phone-free day might be difficult to pull off if you have kids that tend to disappear for the day, such as by going to sports practice or to spend time with their friends. You’ll want them to have their phones so that you can keep in touch with them. However, you could enforce a no phone after 8pm policy (or any other time of your choosing). Maybe they’ll just end up watching TV in the living room, but at least they’ll be less in their own little world and you’ll be able to participate in the activity with them.

  • Download the RescueTime app – This app helps limit Internet use on the phone. It is a time management tool that will help with your productivity as well as the productivity of your kids. By using Focus Mode, you’ll be able to block specific parts of the Internet for a certain amount of time. There is also a time tracker that will email you detailed reports on how much time the user is spending online. This means that you can provide clear limits to your kids on how much time they can spend on the Internet every day. For example, you can tell them that they can only use their phones to browse the Internet for an hour. Without the app, you’d have to take their word for it. However, because you’ll have access to the time tracker reports, you’ll be able to check up on them. If your kids spend more than the allotted time browsing the Internet on their phones, then take their phones away for a certain amount of time (you could match the time they went over, so if they used the Internet for an hour more than they were allowed – take their phone away for an hour).

These are just a few ways that digital parenting can limit your family’s use of their phones in order to increase your time together as a family

Parenting has become increasingly more complicated with cell phones and computers. Read about how you can keep up with it all in our eBook! Download “Digital Parenting: The Essential Guide to Raising Connected Kids” now.

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Tim Woda

Written by Tim Woda

Tim Woda is an Internet safety expert, and a passionate advocate for empowering families and protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers. Woda was on the founding team of buySAFE, an Internet trust and safety company, and he started working on child safety issues after his son was targeted by a child predator online. While his son was unharmed, the incident led Woda to kick-start uKnow.com. You can follow Tim on Twitter or on his blog.

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