Its dinner time and everyone in your family is nose down and glued to their mobile devices and smartphones; instead of making the good old fashioned eye contact. Does that sound familiar? Setting boundaries and limits when it comes to screen times (as well as remembering to put down your own cell phone and connect with your children face to face) is among the toughest challenges of the 21st century. What are good family rules for phone behavior? Set limits, limit usage, and be an example. More to come on these, but there is a way to beat the phone addicted family blues.
Worst yet, studies have exhibited that two-thirds of kids aged eight to ten said that their parents do not have any rules on the time they should spend on social media platforms. This is bad! Experts say that all parents ought to take charge, not only by limiting their kid’s screen time but also by ensuring their own cell phone usage and social network habits are in check.
What are the rules?
- Set limits on usage
In regards to setting screen time rules, one of the best places to start is by setting a reasonable guideline on usage for your children. At first, you may think that it is a great thing that your young one is making good use of the expensive device you bought them, until you come to learn that he/she has not had any real face to face conversation with his/her friends in weeks: Much less a decent night’s sleep.
Compulsive mobile phone’s usage develops extremely quickly for most young individuals whose developing brains seem particularly prone to the lure of compulsive WhatsApp or Instagram status updates, regular check for incoming calls or text messages, and continuous over sharing with thousands of “online friend”.
Coming up with limits on usage from the word go can help ensure technology does not become all-consuming for your children. Consider the following specifics that are a good place to start for your family. Ask:
- Who is your young one allowed to call?
- How many hours or minutes does his/her calling plan permit them to utilize every month?
- Is your child permitted to text? If yes, how many texts have been included in the payment plan?
- Which applications is she allowed to use and download?
- Are there any platforms or applications that are strictly off limits for her?
- At what time every day must the cell phone be put away so they can go to sleep? As an extra tip, ensure the phone is nestled away in a charger: and far away from your kid’s bed.
- Is your child permitted to take her cell phone to school? If yes, is she allowed to utilize it while hanging out with friends?
- Who will be responsible for paying the monthly cell phone bill?
- Will there be consequences if your child violates one of the agreed-upon guidelines?
- Have your kids sign a contract
A recent study showed that having a written contract in the family is a good way to help with cell phone expectations among teenagers. Keep your children accountable for their actions by having them sign a “household contract” about what is acceptable and what is not.
One of the best ways to ensure your children keep remembering what you expect when it comes to using their cell phones is to put it down in writing. A smartphone usage contract is also an effective and smart way to discuss with your kids on what is appropriate and what is not appropriate when it comes to their talk time.
You can list down the rules for how long and when they can use their cell phones and people they are allowed to speak with. Once you have gone over all the rules, have each person sign the contract, and stick it in a place where it is easy to see; such as the refrigerator door.
Also, ensure there are consequences for in case someone goes against the rules. What is the need to have rules if there are no consequences for violators?
2. Ensure there are phone timeouts
We all need a phone time out, particularly during mealtimes, while we’re doing our homework, or while chilling down with family members. Have a physical sitting with your kids and together figure out the appropriate times that everyone will be required to put away their smartphones.
Another tip is to acquire a special basket where everyone will store their electronic devices (including your own!) during these time outs. This way, your child will not get tempted to utilize her mobile device when she should only focus on a school assignment or connect with the family members during a meal or special TV show that you all love to watch together as a family.
3. Limit downtime
When my family is engaged with walking our dogs or strolling down to the beach for a walk together as a family, everyone know that their mother and I expect each person’s cell phones to be tucked away: no matter who you need to chat with.
For your family, you can pick several activities each week or month that will bring your family together for bonding. This can be anything from a bike ride, walk down the street, or perhaps even playing a board game that creates that “sacred downtime.”
This will imply that all mobile devices, especially cell phones will be off-limits for an hour or so. Remember, all these steps in this guide include you. No checking your phone for a text from friends and family, or office emails from a colleague that needs a piece of your each and all days.
Family members need to get reintroduced to simple, and quiet times. This allows everyone to clear their head, as well as the stressors of their daily lives that could otherwise, be continuously interrupted by the continuous pinging of social media status updates or social media announcements.
4. Limit texting and calling times
One of the biggest frustrations with my kids and their smartphones was that they had access to calling and texting throughout the day. Whether they were supposed to be enjoying a family dinner or doing a school assignment, their cell phones would compel them to reach out and start a conversation with someone on the other end; regardless of what they were supposed to be doing.
Thanks to phone carriers though, I now am able to have parental control over my children’s calling and texting.
Most major phone service providers such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon provide services like locking and shutting down the phone at specified times during the day or night, blocking outgoing and incoming calls to specified phone numbers, and setting texting limits.
They may even offer GPS services, so you can be able to tell where your child is calling from. Usually, there is an additional fee for these services, but in my experience, they’re all worth it.
5. Set rules on Netiquette
We all know that social media platforms can be playgrounds for unfettered harsh comments. With a couple of simple clicks, children guiltlessly post cruel texts and taunts that they would, otherwise, never dare to utter to the person on the other end face to face.
As a parent, you should set very specific rules regarding the ethical use of social media platforms and be clear that posting mean comments, spreading lies, or forwarding mortifying photos to peers is unacceptable: and breaking the rules will have undesirable consequences.
It is also essential to teach our children how they should treat other people while texting.
6. Set a good example
Last, but by no means, the least, set a great example. We as the parents ought to be the role models for everything our children do in their lives. As a parent, you set the rules as well as an example of what role mobile devices and other electronics play during family times.
Bear in mind that your phone use is the best example your children are likely to follow. In addition to setting a bad example for your kids, being on your smartphone during family sacred times will distract you from bonding with your kids.
My rule when I step through the door after my 9 hour work day is to leave my smartphone in my purse. I ensure that I do not check my phone until all my kids have done their homework and are settled into their night routines.
They can, at all times, count on my undivided attention between 6 PM and 10 PM. And they know I expect the same thing from them when we’re together.
Digital devices and smartphones are an integral part of our society today. Their benefits, if used appropriately and moderately, can be great. But note that face to face interactions with friends, family, and teachers play a fundamental and even more important role in promoting your children’s health and learning development. Keep the fact to face interactions up front, and do not let it get lost behind the current stream of technology and media.