I am forever reminded of how lucky I am that I raised my kids before cell phones and IPads and Xbox were invented. Parents I talk to all seem to have the same fight, that of keeping their children and teens off devices. Even the kids admit they spend too much time on screens.
“How do I keep my child off his phone?” or “Why am I so obsessed with seeing what people are putting on social media?” are two big questions on everyone’s minds.
I always try to ask the question, “What have you already tried?” to get brains thinking of solutions. But often we don’t even know where to start looking for answers. Here are some ideas I’ve found. Hopefully, one of them will work for you:
1) There’s an app called SelfControl that allows you to block any sites you want for an allotted time you set. It can reduce temptation and, over time, you can block it for longer amounts of time until the habit of checking Facebook or Instagram every 12 seconds is not in the forefront of your thinking. There is another one called ScreenTime that only lets you look at social media for a certain amount of time, usually 1-2 hours. Sometimes a hard set limit is good for all of us.
2) Un-following things that waste time will also help. Those “satisfying videos” or “oddly satisfying videos” fall into this category. Really, how many hours do we need to watch cute puppies, bake something I will never be able to make, cut soap or play with slime? Life’s pretty short, people.
3) Make yourself accountable. Tell a friend or parent about your goal. There’s nothing more motivating than thinking of what it would feel like to have to tell someone you couldn’t do it.
4) Turn off notifications, unless they are texts from an adult or child who needs to know where you are. It’s literally impossible not to look at our phones when we hear it ding or buzz. Find a time of day, such as first thing in the morning, at noon and again in the evening to take a little time to look at social media or play a game. None of us needs to see every Instagram or Snapchat post immediately.
5) Decide not to have the app at all. After all, Tik Tok can be a time waster. And, you’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t have it.
6) Put your phone in another room at night. If you have to get up to go look at it, chances are you won’t want to. That is why I have elected not to have a mini-frig as my bedside table. It’s the same concept.
7) This is an easy one: Remove games from your table or phone. This simple action reduces temptation.
8) Replace “online” with “real life.” Reconnect with your family and friends by actually calling them on the phone or going to see them. Wow, what a concept.
One other thing I want to share. Parents and caregivers, we must continually remind ourselves not to be hypocrites. We can’t tell our kids to get off the phone if we are constantly on ours. And kids see it. I can’t tell you the number of times a student has told me that their parent/caregiver “loves his/her phone (or video game) more than me.” It breaks my heart. So, please notice how much time you are on a device. Maybe you and your children can choose a way to lessen the time together.
Here’s a good option: You may have a student who is 10-14 years old that you feel like you have lost that connection to. Las Animas will host a seven-week program called "Strengthening Families," beginning on Monday, March 23 from 5:30-8 p.m. at the elementary school. Each week we will have dinner, then the kids will go into a room to do activities, while parents will talk about what it is to parent a pre-teen/teenager. After an hour, the families will reunite to do a fun activity together. Please consider it.
It’s a way to connect with your children and other families. There will even be free childcare for younger siblings. If you are interested, call the school (719) 456-1862. Space is limited, so call soon.
Let’s face it. Phones, social media and other devices are fun. But that same fun can take away from all of the time we could be spending doing things that improve our lives, as well as our happiness. We all have a responsibility to do what is right. We can enjoy our luxuries and still know what is most important in our lives, enjoying those people we love and who love us.