As of 2022, 95% of American teenagers have a smartphone, and 45% of teenagers claim they are almost constantly using the internet. These numbers make sense, considering smartphones and digital devices have revolutionized education, health, the workplace, society and everyday life.
Too much screen time, however, can have a negative impact on teenagers. Children and teenagers are twice as likely to become anxious or depressed when looking at or using screens frequently, and excessive social media usage for teenagers can lead to self-injury, affect their self-esteem and negatively influence their academic performances.
Keeping this information in mind, it’s essential you help guide your teenage children in using their smartphones. The best way to accomplish this is to apply these practices and limits yourself so you can lead by example.
Here are five healthy screen time practices and limits that you can teach your teenagers and do yourself; these include setting a time limit; creating a phone bedtime routine; staying in the loop with their social media, apps and games; downloading a monitoring program; and using a phone basket.
1. Time limits
At least once every 10 minutes or (96 times per day), Americans check their phones, and this frequent distraction makes concentration difficult. Teenagers can be distracted by their social media, games, texting friends, surfing the web, etc., and fail to complete essential tasks.
An easy way to solve this is to create a time limit on specific aspects of their phones. For example, you can give 30 minutes for a game, and once those 30 minutes are up, they won’t have access to this specific game until the next day. To support them and show it’s possible, you can choose to put time limits on anything that distracts you from getting things done. Through supporting each other, both you and your teenagers can become less distracted and apply this healthy practice to your life.
2. Bedtime phone routine
More and more teens are becoming sleep deprived. One reason is the blue light that emanates from their devices inhibits the melatonin hormone from producing in their brains.
A simple way to solve this involves setting a time for them to bring their phones or computers into your room an hour before bedtime. It will push them to do activities that help them sleep, like reading a book. Chances are you are also failing to get the best sleep, especially if you use anything with a blue light. You can join your teenagers and set your devices aside at the same time they bring their phones into your room. By practicing this healthy practice together, you both will sleep better in the long run.
3. Stay in the loop
Fifty-one percent of teenagers check a social media site at least every day, and what they share or like can be a mystery for most parents. The best way to overcome this barrier is to create your own account and follow or friend your children.
Instead of banning social media altogether, you can stay in the loop. It will encourage your teenagers to make good decisions and create more transparency into how they are using online platforms. The same applies to any games or apps they want on their phones. This is a great screen time practice for both you and your children.
4. Monitoring programs
There are many monitoring programs that help you regulate what your teenagers see on the internet and can even go as far as blurring inappropriate photos sent to their phones and sending you emails of words or phrases they’ve looked up. These limits can still give your teenagers a sense of freedom while also keeping them safe. Here are a few options:
To encourage your teenagers, you could download one of these monitoring programs to your own device or simply put some restrictions on your phone. Through your encouragement and participation, your children will feel better about these restrictions, and you can better guide them about how they use their devices.
5. Phone basket
The best practice to ensure your teenagers aren’t glued to their phones during family time is to introduce the phone basket. Everyone puts their devices into a basket, and they are not allowed to check their phones, computers, etc. until after the activity.
The best time to introduce this is family dinner, especially considering 80% of teenagers feel dinnertime is the only time during their busy schedule they are able to talk with their parents. By ensuring there are no distractions, you can help facilitate this type of environment. If you also put your devices into the basket, you won’t be distracted either, and you can give your kids your undivided attention. This is a great screen time practice to apply together with your teens.
These five practices and limits have the ability to give your teenagers skills they will value as they become adults and help you support your teenagers while also learning how to better your screen time. The best time to apply these practices is right when you give your teen or child a phone or device. However, you can start at any time. You might receive some pushback as you tighten the reins, but they might be more receptive if you practice what your preach. Choose today to apply one or all of these practices to your and your teenager’s life, and you will see a huge difference.
Amy Cook is the founder of Stage Marketing, a full-service content marketing agency based in Provo.