I have been researching the effects of teens and screen use, mostly cell phones. A survey of 13 to 17-year-olds released by the nonprofit Common Sense Media found that 95 percent of U.S. teens have mobile devices. 70 percent of them check social media several times a day, up from 34 percent in 2022. In the United States, children aged 8-12 spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours.
I had a real conversation with my teens when I saw that their screen times were about two times the national average. I said to them that they might have a screen addiction. One of my daughters is clocking 13-18 hours a day on her phone. She certainly does and the others are not far behind.
None of my children denied that they are on their phones way too much. Do you know what they had the audacity to say to me?
“So do you Mom.”
Gasp! Who me? No no no, it is for work. I pulled up my screen time and it was high, not nine hours but it was close. I had to admit that they were right!
Sure, my iPhone is pretty spectacular. When put to good use, it can really maximize efficiency. My phone also distracts me from the people I love. The “google it” mindset is eroding my imagination. Using my maps instead of my memory has put into dormancy the great sense of direction I once had. Don’t get me started on how I can’t remember anybody’s phone number anymore.
How can I possibly expect them to change their habits if I am reflecting the same habit back to them? Pot calling the kettle anyone?
If you look at the screen time your family uses, you will be shocked, too, unless you are one of those smart parents who use parental control spying apps to monitor your kids. I see the value of those apps. They protect little eyeballs by blocking certain content, but they are expensive. Oh, and guess what? You have to spend tons of time on your phone to monitor their phone.
Deep breath…ok so how can I balance my phone use and show the people I love most that there is so much more to the world than what they can see on a 4×5 inch screen?
All the experts say start slow.
Not every parent takes this slow baby-step approach to limited tech time. One mom I spoke with said she confiscated all tech from her family. All of it. Phones, tablets, and gaming systems. Then she limited television watching too. She left her husband’s phone alone. He is an adult, she said. She even put her phone in the same cabinet and locked it. She used her Apple Watch for calls and texts since other apps’ use is limited on the watch. It has been almost a month. I asked her how she and her family were handling it.
“The kids were very angry at first ” she confessed. “They refused to talk to me for the first week. You know how teenagers can stomp all over the house in bitter silence when they are angry? Yeah, that was my house. The second week, out of boredom I think, they began to draw, paint, play cards together, and…get this..they went outside!”
I was amazed. Outside! I can’t imagine my teenagers choosing to go outside.
As I sat dreamy eyed imagining what it would be like for my kids to look up for their screens, she continued, “They played games outside and just sat together to talk. It has been great”
So that’s it, I have to do something. I can’t let my children turn into pale skinned hermit phone zombies.
I have decided to take some steps to not only help them to put down the phones, but to show them by example that changing tech habits is a real doable thing. I decided to start with me.
Along with the social media year off, I turned off all notifications and set up my charging station in my dining room.
Then I notified my friends, family and followers to text me, better yet call me instead of contacting me through social media. Then I hid app icons on my phone so I won’t see them when I pick up those calls.
My blog posts, like this one, will automatically bounce to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It may appear that I am active online, however, it is the magic of tech.
Will I miss posts that might be important to my family or my business? Probably. That concerns me a little bit, but I’m sure I will survive. I have been assure by other adults and parents who have done this for the sake of their children that it can be done.
What will I do with all the extra time I have by not mindlessly scrolling social media? Write, bake cakes and other yummy things, play table top games, write, go on adventures OUTSIDE, oh and WRITE. I have oodles of interesting topics that I want to share with you. I will take this time to write a few of those and catch up on my current work in progress. My editor will be glad to hear that, skeptical but glad.
Step two will be to schedule screen-free days and time limits on the other days. Stay Tuned. I will let you know how it goes.
Love & Light
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